October 27 2015
Category: Campus Life
On October 22, Elmira College welcomed Bob Wright, former CEO of NBC Universal and co-founder of Autism Speaks, to campus the first lecture in the 2015-2016 Presidential Lecture Series. Mr. Wright served as Vice Chairman and Executive Officer of the General Electric Company prior to serving as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than 20 years. Mr. Wright has a strong history of philanthropy and community service, for which he has received numerous awards and accolades, including the establishment of Autism Speaks, which Mr. Wright co-founded with his wife Suzanne in 2005 after their grandson was diagnosed with autism. In the past ten years Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. Through Autism Speaks, the Wrights seek to advocate for families dealing with the effects of autism. Their focus is on research as well as advocacy and activities designed for affected families and communities around the world. Globally, Autism Speaks has raised more than $550 million towards research and awareness.
During his lecture, Mr. Wright noted that autism is prevalent in approximately 2 percent of the population and represents a full life commitment for families affected. The rise in diagnoses has stemmed, in part, from the greater awareness that has led to a greater outpouring of support for those impacted and an increase in the availability to access to support and information. Autism Speaks has lobbied Congress to help address the issues facing those living with autism spectrum disorders in the United States, which, according to Mr. Wright, has led Congress to approve a $3 billion investment in autism research and to create programs that help families seeking treatment and support. Mr. Wright went on to discuss the instrumental role that Autism Speaks has played in making insurance coverage available for families in 42 states across the country. Additionally, Mr. Wright presented examples of how global corporations such as Walmart and Apple have also made autism awareness and support a priority.
In addition to the advocacy roles of Autism Speaks, Mr. Wright presented information on the organization’s role in advancing autism research, such as the MSSNG (pronounced missing) project, a groundbreaking collaboration between Google and Autism Speaks to create the world’s largest genomic database. The goal of the MSSNG initiative is to improve the world’s understanding and access to autism research by providing open access to the DNA sequencing of 10,000 families impacted by autism. It is the largest sequencing project attempted in history, according to Mr. Wright, and provides an opportunity for the discovery of genetic patterns or indicators that may explain the causes of autism. Through the Wright’s passion and dedication to Autism Speaks, and the expansive capabilities of Google, the MSSNG project may very well give researchers the data they need to provide the answers in autism research.
Mr. Wright closed his lecture by noting that “no one should be left out of the dream.”
To learn more about Autism Speaks, visit www.autismspeaks.org.