SFARI 2018 Pilot and Research awardees announced

Investigating the relationship between single-cell activity and cortical dynamics. Example mesoscopic Ca2+ imaging from an awake-behaving mouse expressing the fluorescent indicator GCaMP6. Here, a spontaneous wave of activity can be seen to propagate from occipital to frontal regions and across hemispheres. Image credit: Ali Hamodi, Jess Cardin and Michael Higley (Yale University).

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it intends to fund 36 grants (15 Pilot Awards and 21 Research Awards) in response to the 2018 Pilot and Research Awards request for applications (RFA).

These grants will support investigator-driven research projects that aim to improve our understanding of autism spectrum disorders and to gain insight that will ultimately lead to novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. The funded projects cover a range of research areas, including genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms; circuit and behavioral analyses; and clinical studies.

SFARI intends to provide more than $20 million in funding over the next three years to 42 investigators as part of this award program.

“SFARI is pleased to be funding these investigators and supporting their labs’ efforts to better understand the neurobiology of autism,” says SFARI Director Louis Reichardt. “We look forward to seeing the outcomes of these projects and hope that the new insights can help accelerate the development of improved diagnostic tools and treatment options for individuals with autism.”

This is the eleventh consecutive year that SFARI has awarded grants in response to this call for proposals. Moving forward, the Pilot and Research Award programs will operate slightly differently than in previous years. The biggest change is that the Pilot Award program will now be held biannually (the first RFA for 2019 Pilot Awards is open now and the second will open in February 2019). The Research Award RFA will be held annually; the next call for applications will open in November 2018. More information about these changes is available here.

“We received a very strong pool of applications this year, and we’d like to thank all of the researchers who applied,” says SFARI senior scientist Brigitta Gundersen.

“We’d also like to thank this year’s review committee members, who advised us on the selection of the awarded proposals from a large number of highly competitive applications,” adds Julia Sommer, SFARI senior scientist.

A complete list of the projects that SFARI intends to fund in the 2018 cycle is shown below:


Pilot Awards

Mark Blumberg, Ph.D. (The University of Iowa)
Neurophysiological impact of abnormal sleep during infancy in 16p11.2 deletion mice

Yoram Bonneh, Ph.D. (Bar-Ilan University)
Assessment of involuntary eye movements as a measure of cognitive abilities in minimally verbal individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Ruth Carper, Ph.D. (San Diego State University)
Characterizing focal cortical dysplasias in individuals with autism spectrum disorders

Shinjae Chung, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania) and Ted Abel, Ph.D. (University of Iowa)
Neural mechanisms underlying sleep disturbances in Syngap1+/- mutant mice

Anis Contractor, Ph.D. (Northwestern University)
Striatal circuit dysfunction in a mouse model of the autism risk gene CACNA1D

Evan Feinberg, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Subcortical multisensory integration in mouse models of autism spectrum disorder

Geoffrey Goodhill, Ph.D. (The University of Queensland)
Sensory circuit development in a zebrafish model of fragile X syndrome

Kimberly Huber, Ph.D. and Tae-kyung Kim, Ph.D. (University of Texas Southwestern)
Assessing roles for autism-linked epigenetic factors in activity-dependent synapse elimination

Denis Jabaudon, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Geneva)
Tracing abnormal cortical neuron developmental trajectories in a mouse model of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

Markus Meister, Ph.D. (California Institute of Technology)
A platform to identify circuit defects in autism mouse models

Anna Penn, M.D., Ph.D. (Children’s National Health System)
Linking placental dysfunction, cerebellar white matter alterations and social behavior deficits in a novel mouse model

Song-Hai Shi, Ph.D. (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center)
Exploring deficits in lineage-dependent neocortical circuit assembly in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome

Beate St Pourcain, Ph.D. (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)
Disentangling autism heterogeneity through multivariate genetic analyses

Hisashi Umemori, M.D., Ph.D. (Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University)
Establishment of specific cortico-basal ganglia circuits by autism-linked protocadherins

Mark Zylka, Ph.D. (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Exacerbation of Chd8+/- phenotypes with a suspected environmental risk factor

Research Awards

Mark Bear, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Assessing experience-dependent visual responses as biomarkers of genetically defined autism spectrum disorders

Jessica Cardin, Ph.D. and Michael Higley, M.D., Ph.D. (Yale University)
Identifying convergent cortical circuit impairments across multiple mouse models of autism

Graeme Davis, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Intersection of autism genetics and homeostatic plasticity

Bernie Devlin, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh) and Kathryn Roeder, Ph.D. (Carnegie Mellon University)
SSC-ASC Whole-Genome Sequencing Consortium (project 2): Development of statistical methods

Joseph Dougherty, Ph.D. (Washington University in St. Louis)
SSC-ASC Whole-Genome Sequencing Consortium (project 4): Functional analysis of mutations in untranslated regions

Catherine Dulac, Ph.D. (Harvard University)
Characterization of fever-sensitive circuits and their effects on social behaviors in autism mouse models

Gordon Fishell, Ph.D. (Harvard University, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard))
Identification of developmental subcortical vulnerabilities in autism spectrum disorder

Joseph Gleeson, M.D. (University of California, San Diego)
Impact and mechanisms of paternal gonadal mosaicism on risk for autism

Kurt Haas, Ph.D. (University of British Columbia)
A multi-model screening approach for the functional characterization of large numbers of ASD variants

Ellen Hoffman, M.D., Ph.D. (Yale University) and Ted Abel, Ph.D. (University of Iowa)
Translating drug discovery findings in zebrafish models of autism risk genes to mouse models

Genevieve Konopka, Ph.D. and Jay Gibson, Ph.D. (University of Texas Southwestern)
Foxp1-regulated cell-type specific contributions to striatal development in mice

Hye Young Lee, Ph.D. (The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio)
Elucidation of the bidirectional role of microglia in fragile X syndrome

Jonathan Mill, Ph.D. (University of Exeter)
Exploring regulatory genomic variation in the developing human brain to understand autism

Len Pennacchio, Ph.D. (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Functionally characterizing noncoding regulatory mutations in the Simons Simplex Collection

Stephan Sanders, B.M.B.S., Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
SSC-ASC Whole-Genome Sequencing Consortium (project 1): Association testing

Stephan Scherer, Ph.D. (The Hospital for Sick Children)
The role of the PTCHD1-antisense long noncoding RNA in autism

Nenad Sestan, M.D., Ph.D. (Yale University)
Gene regulatory control of prefrontal cortex development and evolution

Hongjun Song, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)
Regulation of autism risk genes by m6A methylation

Michael Talkowski, Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard)
SSC-ASC Whole-Genome Sequencing Consortium (project 3): Discovery and functional characterization of structural variation in autism

Haiyuan Yu, Ph.D. (Cornell University), Bernie Devlin, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh) and Kathryn Roeder, Ph.D. (Carnegie Mellon University)
Interactome perturbation screen to identity damaging de novo missense mutations in autism

Larry Zweifel, Ph.D. and William Catterall, Ph.D. (University of Washington)
Pathogenic gating pore current in autism

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