Launched in 2006, SFARI is a scientific initiative within the Simons Foundation’s suite of programs. SFARI’s mission is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.
In 2007, SFARI issued its first request for applications, its goal being to attract top researchers to the field of autism research. Today, with a budget of approximately $90 million per year, SFARI supports over 300 investigators. Since 2003, the Simons Foundation has provided or committed more than $570 million in external research support to more than 600 investigators in the U.S. and abroad.
SFARI now offers annual Pilot Awards and frequently launches targeted requests for applications, seeking to fund projects in a tightly defined topic across various areas of autism science. Annual awards are also made through the Bridge to Independence Award program; these awards are intended to invest in the next generation of top autism investigators by identifying talented early-career scientists interested in autism research and facilitating their transition to an independent research career. Other funding mechanisms offered by SFARI include the Collaborations, which support multidisciplinary teams of investigators tackling critical issues in the autism research field. SFARI’s first Collaboration is on Sex Differences in Autism.
SFARI has also recently established a Supplement to Enhance Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award, which provides supplements to existing grants for the recruitment of new lab members from American underrepresented minority groups at the postdoctoral level, with the goal to increase diversity and fight inequity in autism research.
Additionally, to facilitate and drive research in the field as a whole, SFARI has created and supports numerous resources for autism scientists:
- Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), which contains extensive genetic and phenotypic data from nearly 3,000 families with a child affected by autism.
- Simons Searchlight, which aims to identify and study large numbers of individuals sharing recurrent genetic variants known to increase the risk of developing autism spectrum and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
- Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge (SPARK), an online research initiative that aims to recruit, engage and retain a community of 50,000 individuals with autism and their family members living in the U.S.
- Autism Inpatient Collection (AIC), a rigorously characterized sample of children and adolescents with autism that includes a substantial representation of the severely affected population (including those who are minimally verbal, have very low adaptive functioning and/or engage in challenging behaviors).
- SFARI Gene, an online autism genetics database.
- SFARI Base, which provides access to SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK and AIC data.
- Data Analysis Tools, which support the visualization and analysis of genetic and phenotypic data from the SSC, Simons Searchlight and SPARK.
- Autism BrainNet, which aims to provide scientists with well-characterized, high-quality brain tissue for study.
- Mouse models of autism, which are available to the scientific community through a partnership with The Jackson Laboratory.
- Rat models of autism, which are available to the scientific community through a partnership with The Medical College of Wisconsin.
- Zebrafish models of autism, which are available to the scientific community through The Zebrafish International Research Center.
- Induced pluripotent stem cell lines from SSC and Simons Searchlight participants.