Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism (CPEAs)/Studies to Advance Autism Research & Treatment (STAART) Centers (For Historical Purposes Only)

These projects were superseded by the Autism Centers of Excellence Program and are no longer active. Information on these projects is not being updated and is intended for historical purposes only.


CPEA and STAART Networks conducted and supported studies on the causes, diagnosis, prevention, detection, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). These networks were consolidated in 2007 into the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) Program to enable pooling of resources and maximum coordination and efficiency for autism research across NIH. Information on these networks is intended for reference purposes only.

CPEA Network

NICHD, in collaboration with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), initiated the CPEA Network in 1997 as a 5-year, $45 million, international research network that focused on the neurobiology and genetics of autism. The network included 10 sites that conducted research to learn about the genetic, immunological, environmental, and other possible causes of autism. In 2002, the network received renewed funding of $60 million for the next 5 years.

The CPEA Network was the first of its kind to address unique research topics at each center. Although each multidisciplinary, often multi-site project had a unique focus and research plan, many projects also used a common diagnostic protocol and common measures, enabling the network to investigate more far-reaching questions than a single project could address alone. In addition, whenever possible and necessary, multiple sites pooled their data to address specific research questions. CPEAs linked 129 scientists from 23 universities in the United States, Canada, Britain, and five other countries with more than 2,000 families affected by autism. As a result, the network collected data on the genetic and physical characteristics of the world's largest group of well-diagnosed people with autism.

The CPEA Network and its projects served as a model for future collaborative scientific projects, including the STAART Network. CPEAs ended in 2007 after their second 5-year funding period expired.

STAART Network

The STAART Network was initiated in response to the Children's Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310), which mandated that NIH support a program of at least five centers of excellence focused on autism and related disorders. The initial $65 million for the STAART Network came from the institutes involved in the NIH Autism Coordinating Committee, including NICHD, NIDCD, the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Each STAART site supported and conducted individual and collaborative projects to learn more about the causes, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, and treatments of autism. NIMH, which led the efforts of STAART, describes the network's projects at The STAART Network ended after its 5-year funding period expired in 2007.

STAART and CPEA Networks were merged into the trans-NIH ACE Program in 2007 as a way for NIH to better coordinate and intensify its research on autism. The ACE program uses lessons learned from the CPEA and STAART Networks and includes both research centers and research networks focused on determining the causes and potential treatments for autism.

Topic Areas

See (PDF 576 KB) for details about the CPEA's accomplishments.

For more information on selected STAART studies, visit

Former Sites


  • Boston University
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine, Affiliated Program (First Funding Period Only)
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Rochester Medical Center
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Affiliated Program
  • University of Utah
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University


  • Boston University 
  • Kennedy Krieger Institute 
  • Mt. Sinai School of Medicine 
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • University of Rochester Medical Center
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University

More Information

top of pageBACK TO TOP