SFARI 2015 Pilot and Research awardees announced

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it has awarded 28 grants (15 Pilot Awards and 13 Research Awards) in response to the 2015 Pilot and Research Awards request for applications (RFA).

These grants will support investigator-driven research projects that aim to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorders and to develop potential new therapeutic approaches. The funded projects cover a range of research areas, including gene discovery, molecular and cellular mechanisms, circuit and behavioral analyses, and clinical and translational studies. SFARI will provide more than $13 million in funding over the next three years as part of this award program.

“SFARI has always made it a priority to fund innovative work of the highest quality and relevance,” says SFARI Director Louis Reichardt. “The grants funded in this cycle meet those criteria. These awards also continue a SFARI goal of bringing talented investigators from related fields to think deeply about the biology of this complex disorder.”

Adds John Spiro, SFARI deputy scientific director: “We are grateful to the distinguished group of scientists who helped advise the SFARI science staff on the selection of these projects from among a large number of competitive applications and look forward to the data and resources that will be generated.”

This is the eighth consecutive year that SFARI has awarded grants in response to a call for proposals. Applicants who have submitted a letter of intent (LOI) for the 2016 Pilot and Research Awards RFA will receive a notification about whether they are invited to submit a full proposal by 8 January 2016.

A complete list of the grants awarded in the 2015 cycle is shown below:


William Fairbrother, Ph.D. (Brown University)
Pilot Award:

Use of high-throughput splicing assays to prioritize autism gene candidates

Michael Talkowski, Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Research Award:

Cryptic genetic causes of autism


Ted Abel, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)
Research Award:

Uncovering the impact of 16p11.2 deletion on neurons mediating motivated behavior

Albert Basson, Ph.D. (King’s College London)
Pilot Award:

Identifying autism-associated signaling pathways regulated by CHD8 in vivo

Lilia Iakoucheva, Ph.D., Alysson Muotri, Ph.D. (University of California, San Diego)
Research Award:

Translational dysregulation of the RhoA pathway in autism

Liqun Luo, Ph.D. (Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Stanford University)
Research Award:

Neurobiology of RAI1, a critical gene for syndromic autism spectrum disorders

Thomas Maynard, Ph.D. (George Washington University)
Pilot Award:

Dysregulation of mTOR/TSC in 22q11.2 deletion autism mouse model

Steven McCarroll, Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard), Beth Stevens, Ph.D. (Boston Children’s Hospital)
Research Award:

Microglia in models of normal brain development, prenatal immune stress and genetic risk for autism

Danny Reinberg, Ph.D. (Howard Hughes Medical Institute/New York University School of Medicine)
Research Award:

Role of a novel PRCI complex in neurodevelopment and autism neurobiology

David Sulzer, Ph.D., Guomei Tang, Ph.D. (Columbia University)
Pilot Award:

Neuronal translation in TSC2+/- and FMR1-/y mutant autism mouse models

David Traver, Ph.D. (University of California, San Diego)
Pilot Award:

Illuminating the role of glia in a zebrafish model of Rett syndrome

Lauren Weiss, Ph.D., Erik Ullian, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Research Award:

Delineating the role of RAS/MAPK signaling in 16p11.2 CNV cellular phenotypes

Feng Zhang, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard)
Research Award:

Cellular models for autism de novo mutations using human stem cells


Susan Bookheimer, Ph.D. (University of California, Los Angeles)
Pilot Award:

Parameterizing neural habituation in autism with sensory overresponsivity

Daniel Feldman, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley)
Pilot Award:

Comparison of cortical circuit dysfunction in autism model mice

Charles Gilbert, M.D., Ph.D. (Rockefeller University)
Research Award:

Top-down dynamics in autism

David Ginty, Ph.D. (Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Harvard Medical School)
Pilot Award:

Understanding somatosensory deficits in autism spectrum disorder

Jason Lerch, Ph.D. (The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto)
Pilot Award:

Brain imaging of treatment response

Bo Li, Ph.D. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
Pilot Award:

The intersection between habit and anxiety in a genetic model of autism

Elliott Sherr, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Research Award:

Brain imaging and cell signaling: Insights into the biology of autism

Steven Siegelbaum, Ph.D. (Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Columbia University)
Pilot Award:

Role of the hippocampal CA2 region in autism

Garret Stuber, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Pilot Award:

Visualizing neural circuits of social sensory processing

Gina Turrigiano, Ph.D. (Brandeis University)
Research Award:

Disrupted homeostatic synaptic plasticity in autism spectrum disorders

Xiaoqin Wang, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University)
Pilot Award:

A new nonhuman primate model for studying communicative behaviors


Antonio Hardan, M.D. (Stanford University)
Pilot Award:

Randomized controlled pilot trial of pregnenolone in autism

Ellen Hoffman, M.D. (Yale University)
Pilot Award:

High-throughput drug discovery in zebrafish models of autism risk genes

Catherine Lord, Ph.D. (Weill Cornell Medicine), Adriana Di Martino, M.D. (New York University School of Medicine), Alexander Kolevzon, M.D. (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai), Shrikanth Narayanan, Ph.D. (University of Southern California), Lisa Shulman, M.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Research Award:

Developing scalable measures of behavior change for autism treatments

Karen Parker, Ph.D. (Stanford University)
Research Award:

Detecting and treating social impairments in a monkey model

Recent News