Middle East’s first interdisciplinary university-based autism center to open in Jerusalem

NIS 300 million facility to be overseen by Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center.

A laboratory assistant (photo credit: DANIEL K. EISENBUD)
A laboratory assistant
(photo credit: DANIEL K. EISENBUD)
The Middle East’s first interdisciplinary university-based autism center is to be built in Jerusalem, where it will serve as the region’s largest state-of-the-art research, diagnostic and treatment center for the growing pandemic.
The planned NIS 300 million Autism Center will be jointly overseen by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah University Medical Center’s Faculty of Medicine, the Autism Daily Newscast reported on Tuesday.
“Our goal in establishing the Autism Center is to lead Israel and the Middle East in research, training, clinical services and community engagement for the benefit of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families,” said HU’s Faculty of Medicine Dean Prof. David Lichtstein.
Lichtstein said that the center’s direct ties to  the ASD global community will better inform research initiatives and lead to better clinical practice, public programming and policies in support of those who deal with the debilitating disorder.
ASD, which is diagnosed in approximately 1 percent of children, is a complex neuro-developmental disorder for which there is no known cure.
Although the Israeli ministries of education, health and welfare provide diagnostic services, intervention programs and support for families, significant gaps exist within the system, Lichtstein said.
“By bringing together the relevant disciplines at the Hebrew University – including medicine, social work, and education – and combining them with the clinical excellence of the Hadassah Medical Center, the Autism Center will be positioned to achieve important breakthroughs in the research, diagnosis and treatment of autism,” he said.
According to Joshua Weinstein, the New York-based CEO and founder of ICare4Autism, numerous significant Autism-related scientific studies have been conducted in Israel for several years.
In 2012, some 1,000 researchers, educators and policy experts joined families affected by autism at ICare4Autism’s 2012 International Autism Conference in Jerusalem to share current research into causes and treatments for the brain disorder, Autism Daily Newscast reported.
“Israel is the right place for high-tech relevant [research] to the autism field,” said Weinstein.
“We have some of the brightest researchers here, working on tremendous studies. There’s a big benefit to Israel, and Israel will help benefit the global community.”
It remains unclear when the Autism Center will break ground at HU’s Hadassah University Medical Center’s Ein Kerem campus.