SFARI 2019 Research awardees announced

Reactivation of a silenced allele. Ube3a expression (green) in the hippocampus of a mouse model of Angelman syndrome, following embryonic injection of a gene therapy vector. Image credit: Mark Zylka laboratory / The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it intends to fund nine grants in response to the 2019 Research Award request for applications (RFA).

The grants awarded in response to this RFA will support research that has the potential to shed light on key questions related to the genetic and epigenetic architecture of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying ASD pathogenesis, neural circuit alterations in ASD and the efficacy of gene therapy approaches.

SFARI intends to provide approximately $11 million in funding over the next four years to nine investigators as part of this award program.

“The work of SFARI-funded investigators has contributed tremendously to our understanding of autism biology, but there is still so much we have to learn,” says SFARI director Louis Reichardt. “We hope these grants will further knowledge not only on the biological causes and molecular and neural mechanisms underlying ASD but also promote a better understanding of targets for potential treatment.”

The 2019 Research awardees are the first recipients under this awards program, after SFARI revamped its grant funding mechanisms last year. These changes, which are discussed in this blog post, included ending the Explorer Award program and rebooting the former Pilot and Research Awards program. The 2020 Research Award RFA will open later this year (fall 2019).

“We are pleased that so many investigators positively responded to the changes we made to our funding mechanisms,” says SFARI senior scientist Julia Sommer. “We received many applications, and the quality of the science was extremely high.”

The projects that SFARI intends to fund in this cycle include:

Gloria Choi, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Elucidating mechanisms underlying fever-associated rescue of ASD-like behavioral abnormalities

Melissa Gymrek, Ph.D. (University of California, San Diego)
The contribution of tandem repeat mutations to the genetic architecture of ASD

John Huguenard, Ph.D. (Stanford University)
Screening for convergence of axonal dysfunction across diverse mouse models of autism

Jun Huh, Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School)
Harnessing the maternal immune system to prevent the development of autism-like phenotypes in offspring

Arnold Kriegstein, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Integrated single-cell and functional analysis of Dup15q syndrome

John Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Elucidating the role of TBR1 in synaptic development

Ethan Scott, Ph.D. (The University of Queensland)
Brain-wide mapping of sensory circuitry in zebrafish models of autism spectrum disorder

Flora Vaccarino, M.D. (Yale University)
Chromatin regulation during brain development and in ASD

Mark Zylka, Ph.D. (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
CRISPR/Cas9-based early intervention for Angelman syndrome

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