Professors Mark Zylka and Joe Piven at UNC were given more than $15 million combined in 2019 to further their research which is focused on detecting autism spectrum disorder before it manifests in some young children, WBUR reports.

The two professors work with more than two dozen scientists who in addition to researching early detection, are also developing treatments for some of the conditions that are usually seen with autism.

Piven has been able to detect autism in children as young as six months, WBUR reports. And Zylka has focused on treating a syndrome closely linked to autism with gene editing, which is research that could usher in a broader range of treatments.

Earlier detection is better, Piven says. “As a rule of thumb in medicine, we treat things before they happen. … We are interested in high blood pressure because it leads to stroke, so we treat high blood pressure. And that’s a well-worn path.”

The disorder is diagnosed in one in every 59 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more about the ground-breaking research happening at North Carolina universities here.