Leonard Abbeduto, Ph.D.
Director, UC Davis MIND Institute and Tsakopoulos-Vismara Endowed Chair

Leonard Abbeduto, PhD, is the Director of the MIND Institute, the Tsakopoulos-Vismara Endowed Chair, and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Davis. He also directs the NIH-funded Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center at the MIND Institute.

Dr. Abbeduto’s research is focused broadly on the development of language across the lifespan in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and the family context for language development.  His research has been funded virtually continuously by the National Institutes of Health since 1985. Dr. Abbeduto has published more than 150 articles, chapters, reviews, and books on fragile X syndrome, autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities. His current research is focused on understanding variation in language outcomes in various neurodevelopmental disorders, the measurement of treatment effects in clinical trials, and the use of distance technology in behavioral treatment.

Dr. Abbeduto has received numerous awards and honors, including the Kellett Mid-Career Research Award (2008) and Emil A. Steiger Award for Distinguished Teaching (1996) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Enid and William Rosen Research Award from the National Fragile X Foundation (2010). Dr. Abbeduto is a fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Division 33 (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders) of the American Psychological Association. He earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1982.

Monica Coenraads, M.B.A.
Executive Director, Rett Syndrome Research Trust

As Executive Director she oversees all aspects of the organization, including day-to-day operations, strategic direction, fundraising and communications. Together with RSRT’s Chief Scientific Office, Randy Carpenter, and with input from advisors and the scientific community at large, Monica sets and executes the Trust’s research agenda.

In 2010 she co-founded the Rett Syndrome Research Trust UK and serves as a trustee (organization now called Reverse Rett). She is an Advisor to the Tri-State Rett Syndrome Center at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. In 2014 Monica was asked to serve on the Advisory Board of SFARI.org   In 2013 she joined the Advisory Council for The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN) of FasterCures. She is a founding trustee of the American Brain Coalition. She was awarded Redbook magazine’s Mother & Shaker Award, alongside Katie Couric and Matilda Raffa Cuomo. In 2006, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute highlighted Monica’s efforts in the November issue of the HHMI Bulletin.

In 2015 Monica received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Under Monica’s leadership at RSRF and RSRT almost $50 million has been raised for Rett Syndrome/MECP2 research.

While at RSRF Monica conceived of the Strollathon program and chaired the first event in Stamford, CT. The event was subsequently inherited by IRSF after the RSRF/IRSA merger where it remains a signature event.  Monica has an MBA with an emphasis in International Business from the University of Connecticut

Michael Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D.
Executive Vice President, Biogen

Dr. Michael D. Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D. has been Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Biogen Inc. since April 27, 2016. Dr. Ehlers served as Group Senior Vice President, Head of BioTherapeutics Research & Development and Site Head for Cambridge & Boston, Massachusetts locations at Pfizer Inc. from May 2015 to April 2016. He served as the Chief Scientific Officer for Neuroscience and Pain Research Unit at Pfizer Inc. until April 2016. Dr. Ehlers was responsible for a network of collaborations with major academic and government institutions. He served as the Director of Neuroproteomics Laboratory at Duke University.

Prior to joining Pfizer in 2010, Dr. Ehlers was the George Barth Geller Professor of Neurobiology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Duke University Medical Center, where he pioneered studies on neuronal organelles and the trafficking of neurotransmitter receptors. He is a recognized leader in applying the highest quality science to critical health issues in neurodegenerative and rare diseases. He holds M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and has authored more than 100 scientific papers.

Daniel H. Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART)

Dr. Daniel Geschwind is the Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics and is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. He is director of the Neurogenetics Program and the Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART) and co-director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics at UCLA. Dr. Geschwind obtained A.B. degrees in psychology and chemistry at Dartmouth College and his M.D./Ph.D. at Yale School of Medicine prior to completing his internship, residency, and postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA. He joined the UCLA faculty in 1997.

In addition to his research, Dr. Geschwind has put considerable effort into fostering large-scale collaborative patient resources for genetic research and data sharing. He advocates strongly for data and biomaterial sharing, having provided scientific oversight for the Autism Genetic Research Exchange (AGRE) and has served on numerous scientific advisory boards, including the Faculty of 1000 Medicine, the Executive Committee of the American Neurological Association, the NIMH Advisory Council, and the NIH Council of Councils. He has published over 300 papers and serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Biological Psychiatry, Neurobiology of Disease, Human Molecular Genetics, Neuron, and Science. He received the Derek Denny-Brown Neurological Scholar Award from the American Neurological Association in 2004, the Scientific Service Award from Autism Speaks in 2008, and the Ruane Prize from the Brain and Behavior Foundation in 2012. He was inducted into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2011 and is a member of the IOM Neuroscience Forum.

Pat Levitt, Ph.D.
Simms/Mann Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Dr. Levitt received his B.A. in Biology at the University of Chicago, a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at University of California, San Diego and a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. Dr. Levitt has held chair and institute directorships at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Vanderbilt University and USC. Dr. Levitt has been a National Institute of Mental Health MERIT awardee, McKnight awardee, and has served as a member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council for the National Institute of Mental Health. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.

He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, and serves as Scientific Director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a policy council that brings the best research from child development and neuroscience to assist state and federal policy makers and private sector business leaders in making decisions regarding child program investment.

His research program includes basic studies that probe the ways in which circuitries that control learning, emotional and social behavior develop, using advanced technologies in genetics, cell biology and behavior. Clinical research investigates children with autism spectrum disorder who have cooccurring gastrointestinal and other conditions. Studies of infant resilience to adversity focus on the brain-based and metabolic changes that may have short and long-term impacts on mental and physical health. He has published over 275 scientific papers.

Catherine Lord, Ph.D.
Founding Director, Center for Autism and the Developing Brain Weill Cornell

Catherine Lord, Ph.D. is the Director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain a joint project of New York - Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in partnership with New York Collaborates for Autism and a Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell. She completed degrees in psychology at UCLA and Harvard, and a clinical internship at Division TEACCH at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Lord is a licensed clinical psychologist with specialties in diagnosis, social and communication development and intervention in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). She is renowned for her work in longitudinal studies of social and communicative development in ASD. She has also been involved in the development of standardized diagnostic instruments for ASD with colleagues from the United Kingdom and the United States (the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) an observational scale; and the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R) a parent interview), now considered the gold standard for research diagnoses all over the world.

Dr. Lord was recently elected into the Institute of Medicine. She was the Chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on the Effectiveness of Early Intervention in Autism and was a member of the DSM5 Neurodevelopmental Disorders Committee.

Her research at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain involves continued longitudinal studies, diagnosis, and measuring change over time in children.

David S. Mandell, ScD
Director, University of Pennsylvania Center for Mental Health Policy & Services Research

David S. Mandell, ScD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, where he directs the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. He also is Associate Director of the Center for Autism Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The goal of his research is to improve the quality of care individuals with autism receive in their communities. This research is of two types. The first examines the effects of different state and federal strategies to organize, finance and deliver services on service use patterns and outcomes. The second consists of experimental studies designed to determine the best ways to successfully implement proven efficacious practices in community settings.

Dr. Mandell is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific publications.  He serves as a member of the US Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Council. Dr. Mandell holds a bachelor of arts in psychology from Columbia University and a doctorate of science from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Declan Murphy, Ph.D.
Head of Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Kings College
  • Director Behavioural and Developmental Clinical Academic Group, Kings Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre
  • Mortimer D Sackler Professor of Translational and Developmental Neurosciences
  • Director of Mortimer D Sackler Centre for Translational and Developmental Neurosciences
  • Head of the Section of Brain Maturation, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London.

Professor Murphy’s main research interest is in the biological determinants of brain development and ageing, and how abnormalities in this process lead to neuropsychiatric disorders.

James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP
Professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School

James M. Perrin, MD, is professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and former director of the Division of General Pediatrics at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children and associate chair of pediatrics for research at MGH.  He holds the John C. Robinson Chair in Pediatrics and founded the MGH Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, a multidisciplinary research and training center with an active fellowship program in general pediatrics, and directed the center for over 15 years.  He is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, former chair of its Committee on Children with Disabilities, and past president of the Ambulatory (Academic) Pediatric Association.  For the American Academy of Pediatrics, he also co-chaired a committee to develop practice guidelines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and then a group advising the AAP on the implementation of the guidelines. His research has examined asthma, middle ear disease, children’s hospitalization, health insurance, and childhood chronic illness and disabilities, with recent emphases on epidemiology of childhood chronic illness and organization of services for the care of children and adolescents with chronic health conditions.  He headed the Clinical Coordinating Center (based at the MGH) for the national Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network and directs the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health, a multisite collaborative aiming to improve evidence-based care for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.  He also directed the Evidence Working Group reporting to the Maternal and Child Health Bureau for the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders and Genetic Diseases in Newborns and Children.  Dr. Perrin was the founding editor of Academic Pediatrics (formerly known as Ambulatory Pediatrics), the journal of the Academic Pediatric Association.

Dr. Perrin has served on Institute of Medicine Committees on Maternal and Child Health under Health Care Reform, Quality of Long-Term-Care Services in Home and Community-Based Settings, Enhancing Federal Healthcare Quality Programs, and Disability in America; the National Commission on Childhood Disability; and the Disability Policy Panel of the National Academy of Social Insurance.  His experience includes two years in Washington working on rural primary care development and migrant health.  After his fellowship at the University of Rochester, he developed and ran a rural community health center in farming communities between Rochester and Buffalo.

He received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.  He also served as a member of the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  A graduate of Harvard College and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, he had his residency and fellowship training at the University of Rochester and has also been on the faculties of the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University.

Alison Singer, M.B.A.
Co-Founder and President Autism Science Foundation

Alison Singer is Co-Founder and President of the Autism Science Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research and supporting the needs of people with autism. As the mother of a child with autism and legal guardian of her adult brother with autism, she is a natural advocate. Since 2007, Singer has served on the U.S. Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) which is charged with writing a strategic plan to guide federal spending for autism research. She serves on the executive boards of the Yale Child Study Center, the Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University, as well as on the external advisory board of the CDC’s Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics named her an “autism champion”. Prior to founding the Autism Science Foundation in 2009, she served as Executive Vice President of Autism Speaks and as a Vice President at NBC. She graduated magna cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics and has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

John Spiro, Ph.D.
Deputy Scientific Director, Simon's Foundation

John E. Spiro, PhD, is Deputy Scientific Director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). The Simons Foundation is a private non-profit foundation dedicated to advancing the frontiers of research in the basic sciences and mathematics. The mission of SFARI, a division within the Simons Foundation with a budget of ~$75 million/year, is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the greatest quality and relevance. Working with the SFARI Director, John is involved in all aspects of the foundation’s initiatives in the field of autism, which include supporting more than 200 investigators, assembling large cohorts of individuals with autism for study, developing tools and resources to speed the progress of research, and organizing workshops and meetings to bring together leaders in the field and to attract new researchers to think about the challenges in autism research.

John earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Haverford College and his PhD from the University of California, San Diego. His thesis work was in the laboratory of the late Walter Heiligenberg, and his postdoctoral work was with Richard Mooney at Duke University Medical Center. John’s research interests were in cellular and systems neuroscience. In 2000, he joined the Nature Publishing Group as an editor at Nature Neuroscience, where he was involved in evaluating research findings across the field of neuroscience. In 2004, he joined Nature as a senior editor on the biology team, where he oversaw a group of editors responsible for editorial decisions and peer review of manuscripts across all areas of neuroscience. John joined the Simons Foundation in 2007.

Stacie Weninger, Ph.D.
Executive Director, F-Prime Biomedical Research Initiative

Stacie Weninger is the Executive Director of the F-Prime Biomedical Research Initiative. Prior to this position, she was the Senior Director of Science Programs for the Fidelity Foundations. In 2005, Dr.Weninger served as the Project Manager and Senior Analyst for the Task Force on Women in Science at Harvard University. From 2001-2005, Dr.Weninger was a Senior Scientist at Cell Press for the journal Neuron. Before joining Cell Press, Dr. Weninger was a postdoctoral research fellow at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School with Dr. Bruce Yankner. She was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute predoctoral fellow in the Program in Neuroscience at Harvard University.While a graduate student and postdoctoral research fellow, Dr.Weninger was actively involved in undergraduate teaching, winning six teaching awards.

Dr. Weninger received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, and a B.S. degree in chemistry with highest honors from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She currently chairs the Collaboration for Alzheimer’s Prevention; is President of Alzforum; serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Rugen Therapeutics; serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Denali Therapeutics, Zebra Medical Technologies, Aratome, BRI-Tolan, and Q-State Biosciences; and she previously served as a member of the Board.

Chi-Chi Zhu, M.B.A.
Director of Strategic Alliances, Novartis

Chi-Chi Zhu is Director, Strategic Alliances for Novartis, responsible for creating technology-based and drug discovery collaborations. Previously, Ms. Zhu was Vice President for Business Development for Surface Logix, Inc., a biotech company developing innovative biological microsystems to advance drug discovery and development. Prior to that, Ms. Zhu was Director of Business Development for Celera Genomics. As part of the founding team at Celera, she played a critical role in structuring, negotiating and implementing strategic collaborations with other biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Prior to Celera, she was with the Corporate Business Development Department at Perkin-Elmer Corporation, located in Wilton, CT focusing on mergers & acquisitions. She has an MBA from Boston College with full scholarship, and a BS and MS. from Tufts University in Chemistry.