In 2021, the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) made a number of changes to its requests for applications (RFAs), including the introduction of the new Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science RFA, a single call for Pilot Awards, the suspension of the Research Award RFA and the launch of several targeted funding initiatives, including the 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies, and the Analysis of Postmortem Brain Tissue from the Autism BrainNet Collection RFAs.
Looking back on the past year, we consider that these changes were largely successful in serving our mission: to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance. By maintaining a single Pilot Award RFA, yet introducing new, more targeted initiatives, we were able to strike a balance between supporting ongoing work on high-priority topics, while providing funding opportunities for novel and creative ideas. In 2022, therefore, this strategy will continue as outlined below.
Updates to the 2022 Pilot Award program
The goal of the Pilot Award RFA remains to provide early support for conceptually novel, exploratory, high-risk and potentially high-impact projects that would be unlikely to be supported by other sources of funding. This funding mechanism is particularly relevant for investigators who are new to the autism field.
Please note that this year there will not be a letter of intent (LOI) stage, and full application materials must be submitted by the initial deadline.
Projects proposing research with human participants should be submitted to the 2022 Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science RFA (which will open February 2022), rather than the Pilot Award RFA. In addition, SFARI will launch a second iteration of the Genomics of ASD RFA (see details below). Projects that are a better fit for this RFA should be submitted when the 2022 Genomics of ASD RFA opens later this year.
Investigators who are unsure of which of the RFAs planned in 2022 would be the best fit for their project can contact [email protected] for further information.
RFA opens: January 18, 2022
Application deadline: March 17, 2022
More information about the Pilot Award can be found here.
Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science RFA
SFARI recognizes the importance of, as well as the unique challenges associated with, human research in ASD. As such, last year we launched the Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science RFA, a new, investigator-initiated funding mechanism specifically dedicated to human research studies in ASD. This RFA was intended to leverage recent advances in cognitive neuroscience and quantitative behavioral analysis to inform translational efforts. Given the success of the 2021 RFA, we will be reissuing the RFA in 2022. Importantly, this year the Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science RFA will include two tracks: (1) a track for early-stage projects focused on feasibility and establishing proof-of-concept validity, and (2) a track for more mature projects that focus on translational benchmarks such as scalability and generalizability.
RFA opens: February 7, 2022
Application deadline: April 25, 2022
More information about the 2022 Human Cognitive and Behavioral RFA will be available in February 2022.
Genomics of ASD and Targeted Molecular Therapies RFA
Similar to the 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies RFA, SFARI is planning to launch an RFA broadly covering the areas of autism genetics (including inherited genetic risk as well as mitochondrial genetics), integrative analysis of multi-omic autism data sets, functional analysis of autism associated genetic variants, and development of genetic therapies. We intend for this RFA to also cover projects that propose to make use of SFARI’s induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) resource at a large scale — in particular, projects seeking to generate multi-omic data sets from the iPSC resource that are suited to provide insight into the developmental, cellular and molecular origins of autism.
RFA opens: Late spring 2022
Application deadline: Summer 2022
These changes are meant to reaffirm SFARI’s commitment to supporting outstanding autism science across a wide range of disciplines. Autism research is an exciting and challenging field, and our goal is to keep evolving our funding strategies to best drive the science forward.
Over the next few months, we will be providing more information about our planned targeted initiatives via SFARI.org and the SFARI newsletter. To receive updates about SFARI news and funding opportunities, please subscribe to our newsletter. In the meantime, we welcome your feedback on the scientific priorities and procedures we should consider at [email protected].
We are excited about these upcoming changes and look forward to engaging our community even more effectively.
More information about SFARI scientific priorities can be found here.