SFARI 2023 Winter Pilot awardees announced

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it intends to fund 9 grants in response to the 2023 Winter Pilot Award request for applications (RFA).

SFARI plans to commit approximately $2.7 million in funding over the next two years to 9 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. In particular, the program seeks to support research to link genetic or other ASD risk factors to molecular, cellular, circuit or behavioral mechanisms and set the stage for development of novel interventions. The 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.

“On behalf of SFARI, I would like to thank all the investigators who applied for a Pilot Award,” says Kelsey Martin, director of SFARI and the Simons Foundation Neuroscience Collaborations. “We are pleased to support these outstanding projects, and we look forward to seeing what new pathways and opportunities their discoveries create for the field.”

The projects that SFARI intends to fund include:

Stewart Anderson, M.D. (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
Mitochondrial dysfunction as a genetic modifier in autism

Megan Dennis, Ph.D. (University of California, Davis)*
Genomic assessment of duplicated genes in autism

Harrison Gabel, Ph.D. (Washington University in St. Louis)
Integrated anatomical and gene expression phenotyping in autism spectrum disorders

Ethan Greenblatt, Ph.D. (University of British Columbia)
A high-throughput screening assay for finding small molecules capable of restoring translation in FMRP-deficient cells

Bryen Jordan, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Oligodendrocyte dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders

Reza Kalhor, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University)
Retrospective longitudinal characterization of gene expression changes in mouse models of autism

Nancy Padilla-Coreano, Ph.D. (University of Florida)
Prefrontal-hypothalamic circuit control of pro-social behaviors across ASD models

Heike Rebholz, Ph.D. (Institut de Psychiatrie et Neuroscience de Paris)
Cell-specific phosphoproteomic profiling in a mouse model of ASD, linked to a dysregulated kinase

Jason Yi, Ph.D. (Washington University in St. Louis)
Harnessing functional variant analysis for targeted inhibitor design

*Megan Dennis later declined her Pilot award after receiving an NIH/NIMH award (R01MH132818) for work that overlapped significantly with her SFARI Pilot Award project proposal.

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