Lauren Franz

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Global Health

At Duke University, Dr Franz is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Global Health and Associate Director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, an interdisciplinary research and clinical center serving autistic individuals and their families. She is a Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and her research focuses on improving access to evidence-based autism services in the United States and globally. In 2015, Dr Franz received a K01 from the NIMH, that was specifically issued to build research capacity in global mental health. This career development award supported research reliability training in gold standard autism assessments, training as a therapist, caregiver coach and trainer in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), an evidence-based early autism intervention, and training in implementation science. In 2019, she received a Global Brain and Nervous System Disorders Research across the Lifespan R21, and in 2022, she received the companion R01 from the NIMH/Fogarty. Both the R21 and R01 support implementation and efficacy evaluation of a contextually adapted early autism intervention in South Africa. 

Dr Franz is the UNICEF Technical Lead for a UNICEF/WHO project developing a comprehensive approach to provide care and support for young autistic children and their families. For the past nine years, she has served as a co-investigator on clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of autologous and allogenic cord blood for improving socialization skills in autistic individuals. In this role, she developed and supervises implementation of study-specific Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scales, which are key secondary efficacy measures. In the NICHD-funded Duke Autism Center of Excellence program, Dr Franz was the study lead on a project where ESDM was adapted to address the unique needs of school-age autistic children with co-occurring ADHD. In the Duke Autism Center of Excellence, Dr Franz also leads the Dissemination and Outreach Core, which disseminates research findings to and ensures robust bi-directional communication with the scientific, provider, and autism communities. As lead of the Dissemination and Outreach Core, she also supports the career development of multi-level trainees in autism research, particularly those from under-represented groups.