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The George Washington University Names Inaugural Director of Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute

Kevin Pelphrey will begin his new role April 1.
William Atkins/George Washington University

Kevin Pelphrey Envisions Developing Institute with Special Focus on Adults and Females with Autism

February 03, 2016
Emily Grebenstein: [email protected], 202-994-3087
Kurie Fitzgerald: [email protected], 202-994-6461
WASHINGTON (Feb. 3, 2016)—The George Washington University on Wednesday announced the selection of Kevin Pelphrey as the inaugural director of the university’s Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute. Dr. Pelphrey brings more than 15 years of experience in autism and neuroscience research, most recently as director of Yale University’s Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience. He will begin his new role April 1. 
As the founding director, Dr. Pelphrey will refine and implement the vision of the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute as a resource that offers evidence-based clinical treatments and conducts research on the full spectrum of autism. In partnership with Children’s National Medical Center, the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute will focus particularly on adults with autism, a rarely covered age range in the field. In addition, Dr. Pelphrey will encourage research on females with autism, as they exhibit signs differently than males and are often diagnosed at a later age. He aims to make the institute a “one-stop” resource for families affected by autism in the Washington metropolitan region. 
 “Dr. Pelphrey’s experience as a psychologist, neuroscientist and parent of a child with autism makes him the ideal person to lead the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute,” said Leo Chalupa, vice president for research at GW. “He understands the science behind the disorder and the importance of approaching it not just as a diagnosis, but in a more wholistic fashion. I am confident that he will build the institute into a top-tier resource for individuals with autism and their families.”
The Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute was established as an initiative in 2010 with the mission of improving the lives and addressing the needs of adolescents and adults with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders as they transition into adulthood. The institute is a cross-disciplinary effort that will collaborate with GW’s Computational Biology Institute and the Institute for Neuroscience. More than 80 university faculty from five colleges are engaged in the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute. 
“Autism is a lifelong diagnosis but is so rarely researched past childhood,” said Dr. Pelphrey. “The Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute provides the opportunity for us to take a lifespan perspective and consider the disorder from molecules to minds, looking at everything from the chemical makeup of the disorder to how it manifests in people’s behaviors.”  
The Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute will primarily be housed on GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. The university is investing more than $5 million to establish the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute as a leader in autism research and policy. Once onboard, Dr. Pelphrey will hire five new faculty members as well as administrative staff. 
In addition to funding from the university and research grants, Nelson Carbonell, chair of the GW Board of Trustees, and his wife Michele Carbonell, chair of the National Capital Area chapter of Autism Speaks, donated $2.5 million in 2014 to establish the Carbonell Family Professorship in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Dr. Pelphrey will become the first to hold the endowed professorship when he begins.  
“Dr. Pelphrey will be a catalyst to bring in more resources to help autistic children and adults,” said Mr. Carbonell. “Right now, there aren’t enough programs, policies or strategies for adults and teens with autism transitioning to adulthood, but the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute, under the leadership of Dr. Pelphrey, has the real potential to change that.”
Dr. Pelphrey is the founding director of Yale University’s Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience and the principal investigator of a $15 million NIH grant from the Autism Centers of Excellence Program to study sex differences in autism spectrum disorders He specializes in cognitive neuroscience and developmental disorders. He holds seven active grants, totaling approximately $20 million, funded mostly by the National Institutes of Health and the Simons Foundation. He earned his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University in 1996, doctorate from University of North Carolina in 2001 and conducted postdoctoral research at Duke University from 2001 to 2003. 
Multimedia Resources
Click here for portraits of Dr. Pelphrey (access code: KP11516).
The George Washington University
In the heart of our nation’s capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from across the country and around the world.