SFARI 2022 Pilot awardees announced

Neural activity
Neural activity captured by expression of an immediate early gene (cFos staining) in a mouse brain during a learning task. Image courtesy of: Anis Contractor/Northwestern University

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it intends to fund 16 grants in response to the 2022 Pilot Award request for applications (RFA).

SFARI plans to commit approximately $4.88 million in funding over the next two years to 16 investigators from the United States and internationally.

The goal of the Pilot Award program is to provide early support for exploratory ideas, particularly those with novel hypotheses, that have the potential to yield transformative results in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research. The research projects funded in this cycle will focus on a variety of topics, including functional analyses of ASD risk genes, epigenetic mechanisms perturbed in ASD, and neural circuits underlying differences in social communication, motor control and sensory perception in ASD.

“We received many high-quality applications in this round,” says Kelsey Martin, director of SFARI and the Simons Foundation Neuroscience Collaborations. “On behalf of SFARI, I would like to thank all the investigators who applied and peer reviewers who helped evaluate the proposals. We look forward to hearing about the findings and new research directions that arise from these projects in the coming years.”

Applications for Pilot Awards are reviewed on a regular basis. The next Pilot Award RFA is expected to open in Fall 2022.

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

Mark Andermann, Ph.D. (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University)
Real-time tracking and control of brain neuropeptide levels in autism

Anis Contractor, Ph.D. (Northwestern University)
Neural basis for observational learning in autism mouse models

Graham Diering, Ph.D. (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Early life sleep disruption as a risk factor in autism spectrum disorder

María Domercq, Ph.D. (Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience)
Boosting myelination as a therapeutic strategy in autism

Adam Hantman, Ph.D. (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Cortico-cerebellar communication during flexible motor control in mouse models of autism

Kate Hong, Ph.D. (Carnegie Mellon University)
The role of the superior colliculus in tactile sensory processing in mouse models of autism

Brian Kalish, M.D. (Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto) and Yeong Shin Yim, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)
The epitranscriptome in the maternal immune activation model of neurodevelopmental disorders

Kohitij Kar, Ph.D. (York University)
Developing a closed-loop framework using artificial neural networks and nonhuman primate experiments to test theories of atypical facial emotion processing in autism

Hiroyuki Kato, Ph.D. (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Linking the dysfunction of frontal top-down regulation and cortical hypersensitivity in mouse models of Angelman syndrome

Mirjana Maletić-Savatić, M.D., Ph.D. (Baylor College of Medicine)
16p11.2 copy number variant effects on the gene-metabolome coupling

Hirofumi Morishita, M.D., Ph.D. (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)
Role of autism risk genes on frontal-sensory cognitive control circuit in mice

Michael Piper, Ph.D. (University of Queensland)
What is the common factor driving brain overgrowth in autism? Investigating the relationship between epigenetic marks and neural stem cell proliferation

Paul Tesar, Ph.D. (Case Western Reserve University)
Using human innervated intestinal organoids to study enteric glial dysfunction in autism

Summer Thyme, Ph.D. (University of Alabama at Birmingham)
Zebrafish functional analysis of genes associated with autism

Flora Vaccarino, M.D. (Yale University)
Excitatory and inhibitory neuronal lineages in organoid systems

Xinyu Zhao, Ph.D., Qiang Chang, Ph.D., Daifeng Wang, Ph.D. and Andre Sousa, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Assessing functions of autism genes in deep layer neurons during primate midfetal development using knockdown-patch-seq

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