2023 Summer Pilot Awards Announced

Lead image for the announcement of the recipients of the 2023 Pilot Awards.

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it intends to commit approximately $4.2 million in funding over the next two years to fund 14 grants in response to the 2023 Summer Pilot Award request for applications (RFA). These grants will be funded by Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International and administered by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI).

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.

“SFARI thanks all the investigators who applied for a Pilot Award,” says Kelsey Martin, executive vice president 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:

Jessica Cardin, Ph.D. (Yale University)
Mechanisms of disrupted cortical functional connectivity in a model of CDD

Annie Ciernia, Ph.D. (University of British Columbia)
The role of BAF subunit genetic variants in autism spectrum disorder

Zeynep Coban Akdemir, Ph.D. (University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston)
Systematic identification and characterization of transcripts associated with autism spectrum disorder through potential gain-of-function alleles

Dilek Colak, Ph.D. (Weill Cornell Medicine)
Astrocytic function of the novel ASD-risk gene GIGYF1 in brain development

Joris de Wit, Ph.D. (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology [VIB])
From proteins to circuits: understanding thalamocortical circuit vulnerability in autism

Ariel Gilad, Ph.D. (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Thalamo-cortico-amygdala network dysfunctions underlying impaired sensory integration dysfunction in ASD

Shigeki Iwase, Ph.D. (University of Michigan)
Soma-to-germline transformation in autism spectrum disorders?

Jeannie Lee, M.D., Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Reactivating FMR1 to treat fragile X syndrome

Hiruy Meharena, Ph.D. (University of California, San Diego)
Chromatin organization in the molecular etiology of autism

Lauren Orefice, Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Understanding oral texture feeding issues in autism spectrum disorder

Gabrielle Pouchelon, Ph.D. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
Uncovering developmental activity biomarkers underlying autism using awake functional imaging

Pierre Vanderhaeghen, Ph.D. (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology [VIB])
Linking mitochondria metabolism and and autism spectrum disorder during human neuronal development

Franz Weber, Ph.D. (Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania)
Reversing REM sleep and memory deficits in 16p11.2 deletion syndrome

Herbert Wu, Ph.D. (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)
Neural basis of social decision-making in autism mouse models

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