‘Young’ Feinstein scientist nabs national autism award

Fast start: Feinstein Institute assistant research professor Lior Brimberg has earned a Young Investigator Award from the International Society of Autism Research.

Efforts to determine the elusive causes of autism have earned national accolades for an up-and-coming Feinstein Institute scientist.

Lior Brimberg, an assistant research professor in the Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal Disease at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, has received the Young Investigator Award from the International Society of Autism Research for “her innovative work in helping to identify the causes of autism,” according to the institute, the research-and-development division of the Northwell Health system.

The Young Investigator Award recognizes the best autism-related empirical research studies conducted by scientists who received their PhD or MD in the past seven years, and who published a scientific paper in the previous calendar year. Brimberg’s paper, “Caspr2-reactive Antibody Cloned from a Mother of an ASD Child Mediates an ASD-like Phenotype in Mice,” was co-authored by Simone Mader, a postdoctoral fellow at the Feinstein Institute.

The paper reports that a fetus’ exposure to a mother’s brain-reactive antibodies could lead to a higher risk for an Autism Spectrum Disorder, particularly in males – findings that could lead to “potential diagnostic and preventative strategies,” according to the Feinstein Institute.

Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disorders in which people exhibit social challenges that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others, as well as repetitive behaviors. These difficulties can affect the person’s ability to function socially and often surface within the first two years of life.

Kevin Tracey, the institute’s president and CEO, said Brimberg’s award is another high mark for an organization that “attracts leading investigators at all stages of their careers.”

“We congratulate Dr. Brimberg for receiving this distinction early in her career,” Tracey said in a statement. “And we are thrilled that she is continuing our tradition of making a positive impact on healthcare through research.”

The young researcher’s win also adds momentum to the institute’s autism-research efforts. In September 2016, Feinstein Institute researchers Betty Diamond and Peter Gregersen received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore the relationship between a mother’s autoimmunity during pregnancy and the risk of ASD in her child.

Brimberg, a member of Diamond’s research group, received her award May 12 at INSAR’s International Meeting for Autism Research in San Francisco.

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