On Tuesday, March 3, Lawrence Fitzgerald ‘86, Ph.D., MBA, delivered a lecture titled “Opportunities and Challenges in Drug Discovery for Autism Spectrum Disorders” in the Aloysius P. Kelley Presentation Room.

According to Fitzgerald, his overall mission is “to bring awareness to autism, and bring awareness to the state of medical science and where we are.”

Through his lecture, he discussed the need to expand drug research for children with neuroscience difficulties and problems, saying, “You would expect that there are people out there discovering drugs, but what students may not realize is that the investment in neurological conditions has gone down in 10 years.”

During his lecture, Fitzgerald explained that the lack of investment in children’s neuroscience difficulties “means decreased research and decreased opportunity” for neurological drugs.

Fitzgerald’s lecture was part of a series of free and public events about healthcare issues, such as autism spectrum disorders, sponsored by the Integrated Nursing and Health Studies Initiative at Fairfield University and the Department of Psychology.

He is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Mend Therapeutics, Inc., a non-profit pharmaceutical company specializing in diabetes. He is an accomplished “drug hunter,” with more than 18 years of drug discovery and executive research leadership experience in the neurosciences, according to Mend Therapeutics’ website.

Despite this deficiency in neurological drug investment and research, Fitzgerald said, “There are opportunities in autism in terms of understanding what causes autism that we didn’t have for many other diseases.”

“Part of the reason for the decrease in investment was because we didn’t know what caused depression or bipolar disease and we lost confidence in that,” said Fitzgerald. “I think with autism, there are some great fundamental hooks that could drive investment and attention for more research.”

Junior Laura London found the lecture informative, saying that Fitzgerald’s lecture helped her see “how there’s a lot of money put into [drug research], and I didn’t realize exactly how much was put into it. That was the big takeaway for me.”

For Brendan Freeman ‘15, what was significant was Fitzgerald’s optimism.

“[Fitzgerald] seems to be optimistic for the future of the drug industry, and shows that there are a lot of opportunities there to take advantage of,” he said.

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