Development of Internet-based Clinical Trial Technology for the Treatment of Autism

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have announced a grant award to UCSF’s Stephen Bent, MD and Robert Hendren, DO, who are working to build the infrastructure to support high-quality, low-cost, and rapid randomized controlled trials of therapies for autism.

The team will be working with an existing on-line community and longitudinal study of 13,000 families of children with autism, known as the Interactive Autism Network.

Stephen Bent is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF. Robert Hendren is a Professor and Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF. Both researchers, who will share the award of approximately $200,000, have extensive expertise evaluating the safety and efficacy of treatments for children with autistic spectrum disorders. 

This research, which focuses on infrastructure development and pilot testing, is supported by UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI)

“With an eye of improving the way we use available technologies, this research advances study design for Comparative Effectiveness Research and has the potential to dramatically improve methods for evaluating new therapies for autism,” said Clay Johnston, MD, PhD, Director of CTSI and Principal Investigator for the study. “The award also marks a collaborative effort between two CTSA (Clinical and Translational Science Award) institutions—USCF and Johns Hopkins.”

While most clinical trials involve participants who make visits to clinical sites, the infrastructure developed in this internet-based system will allow children and their families to participate in clinical trials at home, completing assessments over the internet. The method has the potential to improve access to clinical trials, reduce costs, increase enrollment, and markedly reduce the time required to complete a clinical trial.

CTSI at UCSF is a member of the national, NIH-funded CTSA network focusing on accelerating research to improve health. CTSI offers a wide range of resources and services to support research at every stage.