SFARI Summer 2020 Pilot awardees announced

Synaptic function. A calcium imaging assay reveals peaks of postsynaptic activity in individual synapses along the muscle arms of C. elegans. SFARI Summer 2020 Pilot awardee Peri Kurshan will use this assay to assess the role that cell adhesion molecule neurexin has on synaptic function. Image credit: Peri Kurshan/Albert Einstein College of Medicine

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it intends to fund 19 grants in response to the Summer 2020 Pilot Award request for applications (RFA). Pilot Awards support novel, high-risk and exploratory projects that have the potential to yield transformative results in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research.

SFARI intends to provide more than $5.69 million over the next two years to support the 21 investigators leading these projects.

Diverse experimental systems, including both in vitro (e.g., stem cells) and in vivo (e.g., C. elegans, Drosophila, zebrafish, songbird and mouse) models will be studied in an effort to advance knowledge of the genetic architecture of ASD and molecular, cellular and circuit-level mechanisms underlying the condition. Several projects will also focus on human research.

“On behalf of SFARI, I’d like to congratulate all of the investigators who’ve received these Pilot Awards,” says SFARI interim director John Spiro. “We are thrilled that we are able to fund a significant number of novel projects through this mechanism and look forward to hearing the outcomes of these studies in the coming years.”

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

Ravi Allada, M.D. (Northwestern University)
High-throughput screening of Drosophila models to identify autism gene networks that disrupt sleep and circadian rhythms

Edward Chang, M.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Speech cortical encoding in autism

Mauro Costa-Mattioli, Ph.D. (Baylor College of Medicine)
Microbial-based interventions in models of autism spectrum disorder: An exploratory study

Julia Dallman, Ph.D. (University of Miami)
Gut-intrinsic mechanisms of gastrointestinal dysmotility in zebrafish models of autism

Corey Harwell, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Cellular and molecular analysis of Setd2 function during cortical neurogenesis

Richard Huganir, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University)
Development of antisense oligonucleotides for SYNGAP1 haploinsufficiency correction and intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder treatment

Adam Kepecs, Ph.D. (Washington University in St. Louis)
Fronto-striatal dopamine underlying behavioral inhibition in a mouse model of neurofibromatosis type 1

Hiroaki Kiyokawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Northwestern University)
Identifying substrates of UBE3A-mediated ubiquitination in neural progenitor cells and cortical neurons

Jürgen Knoblich, Ph.D. (Institute for Molecular Biotechnology, Austria)
Developmental and cell type-specific origin of autism pathology at single-cell resolution

Peri Kurshan, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
How do neurexins promote presynaptic development?

Kasper Lage, Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Broad Institute)
Defining the regulatory landscape of autism spectrum disorder susceptibility genes in human neurons

Devanand Manoli, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Investigating social communication and attachment deficits in prairie vole models of autism

Oscar Marín, Ph.D. and Beatriz Rico, Ph.D. (King’s College London)
Regulation of cortical interneuron wiring in neurodevelopmental disorders

Stewart Mostofsky, M.D. (Hugo W. Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger)
Computerized assessment of motor imitation (CAMI): Advancing the validity and scalability of a promising phenotypic biomarker for autism

Lauren Orefice, Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School)
Investigating the contribution of peripheral sensory neuron dysfunction to gastrointestinal-related phenotypes in mouse models of autism

Todd Roberts, Ph.D. (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)
Mapping circuits and physiological mechanisms for disrupted behavioral imitation in a FoxP1 songbird model of autism

Angelica Ronald, Ph.D. and Mark Johnson, Ph.D. (Birkbeck College, University of London)
Mapping the common genetic architecture of fine and gross infant motor development in the context of autism

Peter Walter, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco, Howard Hughes Medical Institute)
Exploring the integrated stress response as a driver of autism spectrum disorder symptoms

Jason Wester, Ph.D. (The Ohio State University College of Medicine)
Assembly of cortical microcircuit motifs in a mouse model of Arid1b haploinsufficiency

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