UQ student awarded national prize for debunking common autism myth

Children's Health

A University of Queensland PhD student has been awarded a national prize for debunking a common myth about children with autism.

Chloe Yap, from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Mater Research, won the 2022 CSL Florey Next Generation Award for busting the myth that the gut microbiome causes autism.

Ms Yap and her colleagues found that changes in gut bacteria in children with autism are instead caused by their eating habits.

Our study provides clarity for families and clinicians and puts the focus on good diet rather than a false hope of experimental and expensive microbiome treatments.”

Ms Chloe Yap, UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Mater Research

Ms Yap received the $20,000 award at the annual dinner of the Australian Association of Medical Research Institutes in Canberra.

“It’s such an honour to receive this award, and it’s prompted me to reflect on this amazing and very lucky journey I have had over the eight years I’ve been involved with this project,” Ms Yap said.

“Most importantly for me, the award is recognition of the huge collaborative effort and fantastic team that was mobilised to produce a world-class resource in the Australian Autism Biobank – my PhD work has entirely been built upon this.”

CSL Florey Next Generation 2022 – Chloe Yap (Mater Research-UQ)

Ms Yap is balancing medical studies with her PhD to pursue a career as a clinician-scientist, translating research into new treatments.

“The award is validation that I have chosen the right path and is encouragement to persist,” Ms Yap said.

Her interest in the microbiome of people with autism began as an undergraduate doing a summer internship with Professor Naomi Wray and Dr Jake Gratten.

“I have immense gratitude for my long-time supervisors and ‘academic parents’ who have supported me every step of the way,” she said.

Ms Yap has previously been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and the 2021 QLD Women in STEM Award.

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