Marcus Autism Center Director awarded Ruane Prize by Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation has selected Ami Klin, PhD, as the 2018 winner of the Ruane Prize. Klin is director of Marcus Autism Center, an affiliate of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar at Emory University.
The Ruane Prize, established in 2000 by Joy and William Ruane, recognizes outstanding achievement in child and adolescent psychiatric research. It is deemed one of the nation’s most prestigious prizes for research into neuropsychiatric disorders. The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation is widely considered the pre-eminent national organization focused on neuroscience of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. This is the first time that this prize is awarded to Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Klin was recognized at the Foundation’s International Awards Dinner on Oct. 26 in New York and will receive a $25,000 prize.
Past recipients of the Ruane Prize include autism research pioneers Sir Michael Rutter, one of the most influential child psychiatrists of the 20th century, and Donald J. Cohen, a trail-blazing pioneer in autism research and Klin’s mentor at Yale University School of Medicine.
“It is an incredible honor to receive this prize, particularly given that my mentor Dr. Cohen was a past recipient,” says Klin. “The lives of children with autism inspired me to engage in studies of the emergence of social mind and brain, and he urged me to elevate my clinical instincts to the level of quantitative science.”
Along with his Marcus Autism Center research partner Warren Jones, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and director of research at Marcus Autism Center, Klin’s ultimate goal is to improve the lives of children with autism.
“Our quest has been to enable children with autism to fulfill their promise,” Klin says. “This is a promise that could change the narrative of autism from one of disability to one of diversity, uniqueness and fulfillment.”
Klin joined Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine in 2011. In 2012 he led the effort by Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to gain NIH recognition and funding for a national Autism Center of Excellence, then one of only three in the nation. The center was originally funded by an $8.4 million grant, which was renewed in 2017 with an additional $11.2 million, five-year grant.
Klin’s and Jones’s research has included a focus on very early diagnosis of autism in infants and toddlers using eye-tracking technology to quantify social visual engagement, the way babies attend to, and ultimately learn from, caregivers and peers. The aim of their research is to identify children at high risk as early as possible when early brain malleability allows for early treatment to have the greatest beneficial effects.
As well as leading Marcus Autism Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Klin is chief of the Division of Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. He serves on the advisory board of the Autism Science Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the Foundation for NIH, and the US DHHS National Survey of Children’s Health. He also co-chairs Georgia’s Department of Public Health Brain Trust for Babies.