Launched in 2003, 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 $78 million per year, SFARI supports over 250 investigators and since its launch has provided or committed more than $525 million in external research support to more than 550 investigators in the U.S. and abroad.
SFARI now offers annual Research Awards and biannual Pilot Awards – both award programs solicit applications for projects across all 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. From time to time, SFARI also offers targeted requests for applications, seeking to fund projects in a tightly defined area.
Additionally, to facilitate and drive research in the field as a whole, SFARI has created and supports several 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 SSC data.
- Autism BrainNet, launched in 2014 in collaboration with Autism Speaks, 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.
- Induced pluripotent stem cell lines from SSC and Simons Searchlight participants.