In the United States, autism affects one in 68 children. But according to a recent report in The Economist, many American families wait months and even years to get a diagnosis, in part because doctors cannot keep up with demand. The average family does not get an autism diagnosis until two years after initial symptoms appear. This is especially significant because early intervention is often the most effective intervention.
Now, several technology companies have set out to change this situation for the better.
Cognoa is a new company founded by Dr. Dennis Wall, an integrative biologist who has run research labs at both Harvard and Stanford. He has used his research to develop an assessment protocol that predicts a child’s risk for autism or other developmental delay with 90 percent accuracy.
Parents can download the Cognoa app to a mobile device. In just 10 minutes, parents can complete a confidential questionnaire and upload a few videos of their child completing a specific activity. A team of doctors and scientists reviews the profile, and then gets back to parents a few days later with a risk assessment. The resulting information, which parents can give to their family doctor, should assist in getting a more timely diagnosis.
Startups are not the only companies taking on autism. Tech giant Google recently announced a partnership with Autism Speaks to assist in the sequencing of DNA from 10,000 autism patients and their relatives.
Through the use of Google Genomics, genetic researchers will not only be able to access all of the genetic data in one place, but they will also be able to match that data in dynamic ways, such as by region or by sequence. According to Wired magazine, genetic data takes up a lot of storage space, and the use of Google Genomics will give researchers a major leg up in the quest to find the genetic factors that influence autism.
According to ABC News, Google will open its autism database to anyone who would like to access it, meaning that scientists and researchers anywhere in the world can use and analyze the data.