New SPARK clinical sites announced

Boy exercises by putting hands and fingers together with therapist showing it improving motor skills sitting opposite at the table indoors

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The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge) has selected seven new clinical sites as a result of the 2019 SPARK Clinical Site Network request for applications. These sites will join the existing SPARK clinical site network of U.S.-based clinical sites that were awarded in previous years, for a total of 31 sites in the network.

Launched in 2016, SPARK aims to recruit, engage and retain a cohort of 50,000 individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their family members in the United States. To date, SPARK has recruited 160,000 participants, including 61,000 individuals with ASD. Of these, almost 16,000 have provided saliva samples for genetic analyses with their biological parents and, when applicable, an unaffected sibling. Phenotypic data about their medical and behavioral information is being collected through online questionnaires.

While SPARK uses a variety of media to recruit participants nationwide, clinical sites are one of the most effective channels to reach out to and engage individuals with ASD and their families in research. Each of the new sites will receive funding of up to $200,000 per year, for a maximum of three years, to facilitate recruitment of eligible individuals, conduct community outreach and follow up with registered participants.

The new sites and their Principal Investigators (PIs) are:

Children’s Specialized Hospital
(PIs: Jill Harris, Ph.D. and Malia Beckwith, M.D.)

Emory University and Marcus Autism Center
(PIs: Chris Gunter, Ph.D. and Opal Ousley, Ph.D.)

The Rose F. Kennedy Children’s Evaluation & Rehabilitation Center at Montefiore
(PI: Lisa Shulman, M.D. )

Stanford University
(PI: Antonio Hardan, M.D.)

University of Michigan
(PI: Costanza Colombi, Ph.D.)

The University of Utah Child Development Program
(PI: Paul Carbone, M.D.)

Yale University
(PIs: Roger Jou, M.D., Ph.D. and Abha Gupta, M.D., Ph.D.)

A complete list of all sites in the network can be found here.

“We are excited that more clinical sites will join the SPARK clinical site network,” says Wendy Chung, SPARK Principal Investigator, Director of Clinical Research at SFARI and the Kennedy Family Professor of Pediatrics in Medicine at Columbia University. “Clinical sites are a key component of SPARK’s success.”

Adds Pamela Feliciano, SPARK Scientific Director and SFARI Senior Scientist, “We have been extremely impressed with all of the clinical sites’ enthusiasm for SPARK and their dedication to meeting its goals. We look forward to working with the new sites to keep engaging more and more people in the SPARK project and autism research.”

SPARK clinical site network. Thirty-one university-affiliated clinic programs in 26 states across the U.S. have partnered with SFARI to help recruit participants.
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