It is with mixed emotions that we announce that Jane Pickett, Autism BrainNet Science Program Officer, will be leaving Autism BrainNet at the end of November. Dr. David Amaral, director of Autism BrainNet said, “we owe Dr. Pickett an enormous debt of gratitude for her help in the graceful transition from the Autism Tissue Program (ATP) to Autism BrainNet. She was instrumental in getting the new initiative up and running and in providing continuity with the operations of the ATP.”
In 1998, Dr. Pickett joined the National Alliance for Autism Research to organize and direct the Autism Tissue Program, a new program at the time, formed to acquire brain tissue for autism research. Central to that program was an outreach campaign through the Autism Societies of America and other existing autism organizations, the formation and support of a Tissue Advisory Board and the development of a central database (developed in collaboration with her husband, Rich Pickett) to record comprehensive clinical information on brain donors and their families. In 2006, Autism Speaks assumed support of the Autism Tissue Program.
When it was evident early on that many of the deceased had both epilepsy and autism, Jane began cross-referencing California databases for mortality statistics and published her findings about the higher risk of mortality in autism (Pickett J, Xiu E, Tuchman R, Dawson G, Lajonchere C. Mortality in individuals with autism, with and without epilepsy. J Child Neurol. 2011 Aug;26(8):932-9), especially when it co-occurs with epilepsy.
As Science Program Officer for the ATP, Dr. Pickett managed tissue applications from the global research community. She worked closely with the Tissue Advisory Board who approved 137 projects. To date, there are over 198 publications based on brain tissue research using the resources of the ATP. In 2014, Autism BrainNet was launched and the resources of the Autism Tissue Program were transferred to this new effort. Dr. Pickett contributed greatly to the success of this transition and provided valuable advice on brain banking as she continued to work with the new clinical and technical staff at the Autism BrainNet nodes to support the brain donation and documentation process.
In recent years, autism became a personal experience when her grandson, Hudson now 6, was diagnosed with autism. Jane will continue to be involved in the autism and scientific community. During her free time she plans to fly around the world with her husband, Rich, and spend time with her family and friends.
Dr. Pickett has done a tremendous amount to foster autism research using postmortem brain tissue and researchers around the world will continue to acknowledge her assistance and contribution for years to come. “Jane was the heart and soul of the ATP. She moved mountains to distribute tissue for hundreds of projects, yet she knew where every needle was in the haystack of the repository. She will be greatly missed.”-Keith Young