Autism research in Quebec got a major boost on Monday with the announcement of $16 million in funding from a private foundation.

The money will go towards the founding of the Azrieli Centre for Autism Research at the Montreal Neurological Institute, a centre dedicated towards researching the causes of autism.

"Autism is a dysfunction of the brain involving mostly the communication between the cells," said Dr. Guy Rouleau of the Montreal Neurological Institute. 

"Autism is not a disease but a disorder that has hundreds of causes.

The research will also develop new treatments and therapies for those with the disorders on the autism spectrum.

Azrieli Foundation co-chair Naomi Azrieli said the issue is one that’s close to her family’s heart, as a member of the family has an autism disorder.

“We feel, as a family, that we can hopefully provide a model or leadership for other families to get involved as well,” she said.

“With money, of course, but from the heart as well and with effort and advocacy for not only patients and their families, but also for researchers and scientists and advocacy for the importance of investing in research in this country.”

Dr. Rouleau said they will also work with another research network called "Transforming Autism Care Consortium" that has partnered with 1,000 families.

"The kids and also the parents will be studied very deeply so that we understand well what's going on, including genetics,' said Dr. Rouleau.

The hope is to identify risk factors, help with early diagnosis, and ideally intervene early and change the trajectory of a person's life.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette, who was present for the announcement, declined to say whether any government funds would be earmarked for the centre. 

"Wait until next year," said Barrette.

Meanwhile the Azrieli family hopes its private donation will serve as a catalyst.

"We can hopefully provide a model or leadership for other families to get involved as well, with money of course but also from the heart and with effort and advocacy," said Azrieli.