2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies – Request for Applications

Grants awarded through this RFA are intended to advance our understanding of the genetic basis of ASD and the molecular and cellular consequences of genetic risk, and to provide a foundation for the development of treatments for select genetically defined forms of the condition. Special emphasis is placed on the use of scalable methods, especially as applied to genes that are suitable targets for genetic therapies.

The annual budget is between $200,000 and $400,000, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two or three years.

Maximum Budget

The annual budget is between $200,000 and $400,000
Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) or three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Informational Zoom Meeting
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Dates: Dec 2021, Jan 2022, Feb 2022
Maximum Budget

The annual budget is between $200,000 and $400,000
Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) or three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Informational Zoom Meeting
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Dates: Dec 2021, Jan 2022, Feb 2022
Contact Info
Read More
Maximum Budget

The annual budget is between $200,000 and $400,000
Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) or three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Informational Zoom Meeting
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Dates: Dec 2021, Jan 2022, Feb 2022
Contact Info

SFARI Mission

The mission of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.

Background and Objectives

Grants awarded through this request for applications (RFA) are intended to advance our understanding of the genetic basis of ASD and the molecular and cellular consequences of genetic risk, and to provide a foundation for the development of treatments for select genetically defined forms of the condition.

Over the past decade, the scientific community has identified more than 100 highly penetrant risk genes for ASD, owing in part to analyses of SFARI-sponsored cohorts such as SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge), Simons Searchlight and Simons Simplex Collection (SSC). Although these genetic findings have allowed for a better understanding of the biological underpinnings of ASD, much remains to be done to elucidate the complexity of ASD genomics and to use this knowledge to develop new genetic therapies.

In this RFA, we seek proposals in three broad areas of ASD genomics: (1) risk gene discovery and systems biology, (2) functional analysis of variants associated with ASD risk genes and (3) gene-targeted therapies. Successful proposals with a focus on the first two areas will likely involve large-scale analyses.

We encourage applications that focus, at least in part, on a subset of 50 genes from the SPARK gene list that SFARI has selected as strong candidates for the development of translational programs (download the Prioritized SPARK Gene List here). The 50 genes on this list are chosen for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Evidence of recurrent, gain-of-function mutations potentially amenable to knockdown strategies.
  2. Evidence of a mutation hotspot/mutation cluster that may help indicate which part/s of the gene are important for pathogenicity and/or could be treated en bloc.
  3. Evidence of poison exons/non-productive alternative splicing events in a gene with evidence for haploinsufficiency.
  4. The gene encodes a kinase, phosphatase or channel that may be druggable by small molecules.
  5. The genetic syndrome is recessive and offers the opportunity for gene addition.
  6. The gene is X-linked, affects predominantly females and could be amenable to X-reactivation.
  7. Evidence of reversibility (cellular/behavioral) in an animal model.
  8. Association with severe, intractable epilepsy and/or profound intellectual disability and/or neurodegeneration for which the risk/benefit ratio of novel therapeutics could be justifiable.
  9. The predicted incidence of pathogenic mutations in the population exceeds 1/20,000.
  10. The presence of a well-organized family group.

This list of 50 SPARK genes is not meant to be a perfect representation of these criteria; rather, it is a running list, as it provides a manageable number of genes to choose from to help focus support for translational efforts. Applicants are welcome to propose work on other genes but should provide a clear justification for their choices.

Applicants are encouraged to read each section of the RFA, regardless of their particular area of interest. We encourage collaborative proposals that span the different focus areas detailed below. In particular for proposals focusing on area 3, “Genetic Therapies,” we are open to considering collaborations between academic and for-profit industry groups.

For questions about whether a particular proposal is well suited for this RFA, please contact sciencerfa@simonsfoundation.org.

Focus Area 1: Integrative Analyses of Multi-omic ASD Data

Focus area 1 builds upon a previous SFARI request for applications to analyze genomic data collected through the SPARK cohort. Whole-genome or whole-exome sequences from 47,000 SPARK participants (23,000 of which have ASD) are currently available to approved researchers through SFARI Base, and an additional release of 16,000 exomes (12,000 with ASD) is planned for 2021. Although some ASD risk genes are well-characterized, a deeper functional assessment of dozens of highly penetrant ASD risk genes and how they may converge on overlapping biological networks remains an important goal of autism research. In order to address this knowledge gap, this focus area will prioritize integrative analyses that will leverage available genomic data on tens of thousands of individuals with ASD and many publicly available genome-wide multi-omic datasets.

A specific goal of this focus area is to better understand how ASD-associated alleles perturb protein-protein interactions, DNA accessibility, transcription factor binding and downstream gene expression. In particular, we encourage studies that capitalize on recent advances in genome-wide resources that are now available, including the reference map of the human protein interactome, ENCODE data and binding sites for 270 transcription factors1 (some of which are high-confidence ASD risk genes), among many other resources.

Focus Area 2: Functional Analysis of Associated Variants

Focus area 2 builds on a 2015 SFARI request for applications to carry out a range of functional analyses of missense and in-frame deletion mutations identified in high-penetrance autism risk genes. Although much attention has been focused on de novo mutations that completely disable protein function such as nonsense and frameshift mutations, the functional effects of variation in other categories are often more difficult to define.

Grants awarded under the 2015 RFA have made substantial progress in establishing pipelines for the assessment of missense variants in a range of assays. In so doing, these studies have begun the process of functionally characterizing a number of autism-associated genes (examples of a few of these studies include a focus on PTEN function2, protein-protein interactions3, and effects on habituation4 and locomotion5 in C. elegans).

We invite proposals to study the functional effects of any class of variant associated with ASD susceptibility, including but not limited to missense, splicing and regulatory variants, as well as repeat expansions and contractions. Variants to be analyzed may come from any publicly available autism cohort for which high-quality exome and/or genome sequences are available. Proposals to be considered should address the following priorities:

  • Successful applications will continue to build comprehensive catalogs of clinically relevant functional variants for high-penetrance risk genes that are clearly associated with autism. We particularly encourage applications that focus, at least in part, on the list of 50 SPARK genes prioritized by SFARI for the possible development of translational programs (see above for rationale). Toward this end, assessment of variants as either loss-of-function or gain-of-function will be of special interest, as will information about molecular and/or cellular phenotypes that are particularly well suited to being used as a readout of the effectiveness of gene-based rescue experiments.
  • Proposals should include a plan to integrate newly generated functional information into clinical databases, in consultation with SFARI and other relevant stakeholders.
  • We encourage proposals that use functional assessments of variants to benchmark the accuracy of informatics- and structure-based predictions of pathogenicity.

Focus Area 3: Genetic Therapies

Focus area 3 stems from recent progress in gene-targeting therapeutic approaches — such as antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), siRNA, RNA-based treatment or vector-based gene replacement therapies — to treat genetically defined neurodevelopmental disorders. Several molecular tools suited to specifically manipulate gene expression or to ‘repair’ pathogenic genetic variants have been developed, thus making genetic therapies an active area of investigation. (Learn more about a workshop that SFARI organized to discuss opportunities and challenges of gene therapies in autism).

SFARI currently funds multiple investigators who are developing gene-targeting approaches for autism risk genes. With this RFA, we aim to advance this research and to accelerate the application of such novel technologies to the treatment of severe neurodevelopmental disorders caused by mutations in high-confidence ASD risk genes.

Successful applications will provide convincing justification for the genes or mutational mechanisms prioritized for study. We encourage applicants to reference the list of ASD risk genes prioritized by SFARI and its rationale described above, when justifying their selection in the proposals. We also encourage applicants to familiarize themselves with relevant resources supported by SFARI, such as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell models.

We expect that proposals will include molecular, cellular and/or animal model studies of the target gene(s) that will lead to the identification of phenotypes that can be used to test the efficacy of the proposed targeted interventions.

Available Resources

SFARI has established multiple resources that may be helpful to the studies proposed in response to this RFA. These resources include genomic and phenotypic data from more than 50,000 participants in SFARI cohorts (SSC, SPARK and Simons Searchlight), with approximately 50,000 whole-exome and 15,000 whole-genome sequences.

Biospecimens including iPS cells, lymphoblastoid cell lines and fibroblasts are also available from a subset of participants in the SSC or Simons Searchlight cohorts.

Researchers can request SFARI data and/or biospecimens through SFARI Base

Level and Duration of Funding

The annual budget is between $200,000 and $400,000, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) or three (3) years. Progress will be critically evaluated at the end of each annual funding period before support for the upcoming year will be approved. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the total budget threshold (see grant policies).

We strongly encourage investigators to tailor their requested budgets and duration to levels appropriate for the scope of their specific aims. For example, data analysis projects that do not require the generation of new data are expected to have lower budgets than those generating new data. We recommend that investigators include realistic budget estimations in their initial grant application. It is at the foundation’s discretion to modify final budgets as needed.

Eligibility

All applicants and key collaborators must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or the equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility.

Principal investigators (PIs) who do not have substantial ASD clinical expertise should include a close collaborator with such expertise on their grant application.

SFARI recognizes the importance of diverse viewpoints for scientific advancement. As such, SFARI strongly encourages the inclusion of researchers who span institutions, career stages and groups historically underrepresented in science.

Applications may be submitted by domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations; public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories, and units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government. There are no citizenship or country requirements.

Instructions for Submission

Applications must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at proposalCENTRAL. Please log in as an applicant, go to the grant opportunities tab, scroll to “Simons Foundation,” and click “Apply Now” for the 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies – RFA.” For assistance, please call 800-875-2562 or email pcsupport@altum.com.

Details concerning application requirements and submission can be found in our instructions or on proposalCENTRAL. If you have other questions, please review our FAQ.

Informational Sessions for Potential Applicants

To answer questions about this RFA, SFARI will hold an informational Zoom meeting on May 20, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Interested applicants can register here.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Many of the greatest ideas and discoveries come from a diverse mix of minds, backgrounds and experiences. The Simons Foundation is committed to grantmaking that inspires and supports greater diversity and inclusiveness by cultivating a funding environment that ensures representation of all identities and differences and equitable access to information and resources for all applicants and grantees.

The Simons Foundation provides equal opportunities to all applicants for funding without regard to race, religion, color, age, sex, pregnancy, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic disposition, neurodiversity, disability, veteran status or any other protected category under federal, state and local law. The foundation also funds programs directed at supporting scientists from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented groups, often working closely with professional societies and other funding agencies.

References

  1. Yan J. et al. Nature 591, 147-151 (2021) PubMed
  2. Post K. et al. Nat. Commun. 11, 2073 (2020) PubMed
  3. Chen S. et al. Nat. Genet. 50, 1032-1040 (2018) PubMed
  4. McDiarmid T.A. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 117, 656-667 (2020) PubMed
  5. Wong W.-R. et al. Hum Mol. Genet. 28, 2271-2281 (2019) PubMed
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proposalCENTRAL Logo

The Simons Foundation uses an electronic grants submission process. All interested grant applicants must submit their applications online through proposalCENTRAL.

Maximum Budget

The annual budget is between $200,000 and $400,000
Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) or three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Informational Zoom Meeting
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Dates: Dec 2021, Jan 2022, Feb 2022
Contact Info

The submission deadline is Tuesday, July 6, 2021, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Accessing the Application in proposalCENTRAL:

Prospective applicants must submit an application via proposalCENTRAL (pC). To start an application in pC, users must first log in to their pC account.

If You Need to Create a New Account in pC

To create a new account, go to proposalCENTRAL and click “Create One Now!” under “Application Login.” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to pC’s “Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy” and then click “Save.” For the next steps, see the “If You Have an Existing Account in pC” section below.

If You Have an Existing Account in pC

For all users with a pC account, log in under “Application Login” at proposalCENTRAL and select “Create New Proposal” or click on the “Grant Opportunities” tab. Scroll down to “Simons Foundation” and then click “Apply Now” for the “Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative-2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies” program in order to start the proposal and access the templates. After all sections are completed, you will be able to click on the “Submit” button.

Application Requirements and Submission Instructions

To submit an application, the following proposalCENTRAL sections must be completed:

  1. Title Page: Please provide the following information:
    1. Project title
    2. Indicate the use of Simons Collections biospecimens, data or patient recruitment.
    3. Select a primary category. Please note a secondary category is not required.
  2. Download Templates & Instructions: The following templates are available for download:
    1. 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies – RFA Application Instructions
    2. Simons Foundation Policies and Procedures
    3. 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies – RFA Announcement
    4. Methodological and statistical considerations for SFARI grant proposals
    5. Induced pluripotent stem cell models of autism: Experimental design considerations
    6. 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies – RFA Specific Aims Page Template
    7. 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies – RFA Proposal Narrative Template
    8. Human Participants Study Information Sheet
    9. Chemical and Compound Information Sheet
    10. Statement of Changes Template
    11. Biosketch Template
    12. Budget Justification Template
    13. Current and Pending Support Template
    14. Resources and Research Environment Template
    15. Renewable Reagents and Data Sharing Plan Template
    16. Detailed Budget Template for Subcontract
  3. Enable Other Users to Access This Proposal: Complete this section to give administrators or collaborators access and to allow other users to submit the application on your behalf.
  4. Applicant/PI: The principal investigator (PI) should be listed here. For grants with multiple PIs, the contact PI should be listed here.
  5. Organization/Institution: Enter the lead institution. Contact information for the signing official and financial/fiscal officer from your institution is required; select the correct person or enter new names in this section.
  6. Key Personnel: Indicate key personnel, including but not limited to: principal investigators (not including the contact PI), co-investigators, consultants, postdoctoral research associates and others. In rare circumstances, the applicant organization may designate multiple individuals as PIs who share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically. For more information on the responsibilities of PIs, please refer to the relevant questions in the FAQ section.
  7. Abstract: Enter as text in this section.
  8. Budget Period Detail: The following information is required for the “Budget Period Detail”
    1. Award start date: Proposals selected for funding as SFARI 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies Awards will be announced in October 2021, and funding will begin on December 1, 2021; January 1, 2022; or February 1, 2022. Please note that grants may not activate without current ethical approval documentation for human participants and/or animal research, unless given prior approval by SFARI staff.
    2. Personnel: Please provide the name, role, appointment type, percent effort, institutional base salary, requested salary, fringe rate and requested fringe for all personnel.
      1. Other considerations: Please note there is no salary cap for PIs or other faculty on a Simons Foundation grant; however, the compensation is prorated according to the individual’s percent effort on the grant. There is no minimum percent effort required for PIs or other personnel on any SFARI award type, but it is expected that the PI will commit sufficient effort to this project to provide a leading intellectual and guiding role on the project. PIs committing less than 15 percent effort to their project should justify their effort level in detail. SFARI funds may be used only for personnel considered employees of the grantee institution who are eligible for benefits. Funds may not be used for stipend or benefit supplementation unless specifically authorized under the terms of the program from which funds are derived. The Simons Foundation reserves the right to modify budgets when an application has been selected for an award (see Simons Foundation policies).
    3. Indirect Costs (IDCs): IDCs are limited to 20 percent of direct costs, with the following exceptions: equipment, tuition, pre- and postdoctoral fellow stipends and benefits (non-university personnel), Simons Collections biospecimens and any subcontracts with budgets including IDCs. IDCs paid to a subcontractor may not exceed 20 percent of the direct costs paid to the subcontractor. IDCs on large equipment are not allowable; however, IDCs on small equipment (equipment with a unit price up to $10,000) are permissible.
    4. Equipment: The Simons Foundation will own equipment purchased with foundation grant funds with a unit cost of $50,000 or more. At the end of the grant-funding period or in case of grant termination for any reason, the foundation reserves the right to retain ownership or cede ownership to the PI’s institution. Equipment with a unit cost of $50,000 or less shall be the property of the institution.
    5. Biospecimens: If the proposal includes the use of Simons Collection biospecimens —e., from the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) or Simons Searchlight — the Simons Foundation will review the estimated cost based on the price list on our website. Biospecimen costs will be considered separately from other project costs. Enter the projected figure in the field marked “Simons Collections Biospecimens (No IDC)” in the “Budget Period Detail” section, under “Other Expenses.” A description of use, including the number and type of biospecimens, should be included in the proposal narrative and budget justification (see the “Proposal Attachments” section below). Biospecimen costs must be excluded from the IDC cost calculation.
      1. Please do not use the field marked “For Internal Use Only-Estimated Cost for Simons Collections Biospecimens” below the “Indirect Costs” section in the “Budget Period Detail”.
      2. Investigators interested in recruiting human participants, including those from a Simons Collection must complete and submit a Human Participants Study Information Sheet.
    6. Multiple PIs:
      1. Please note that the applicant PI will be the designated contact PI for the project. The contact PI will be responsible for directing the project and will act as the main point of contact for the foundation by coordinating all administrative deliverables.
      2. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who would like to be paid separately must upload in the “Proposal Attachments” section:
        1. Signed signature page for each PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        2. Budget template for each non-applicant PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        3. Direct costs for all non-applicant PIs, which must be given in section 8 (“Budget Period Detail”) in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section. Indirect costs for all non-applicant PIs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each non-applicant PI.
      3. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution are considered subcontractors. Please refer to the instructions in the “Subcontracts” section below.
      4. Applications with multiple PIs from the same institution do not need to submit additional materials. Additional non-applicant PIs should be listed as key personnel in section 6 (“Key Personnel”) and in section 8 (“Budget Period Detail”), and only one signature page is needed.
      5. Please see the chart below for a detailed breakdown of multiple PI requirements.
    7. Subcontracts:
      1. Applications with subcontracts (including PIs who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution) must submit:
        1. Subcontract Detailed Budget (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections) for each subcontract.
        2. Direct costs for all subcontract PIs, which must be given in section 8 (“Budget Period Detail”) in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section. Indirect costs for all subcontract PIs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each subcontract PI.
      2. Please see the chart below for a detailed breakdown of subcontract requirements.
    8.  

      Requirements Multiple PIs
      (at different institutions that want to be paid separately)
      Subcontracts
      (including subcontract PI)
      Signed signature page Yes No
      Detailed budget template for additional PIs at different institutions Yes No
      Detailed budget template for subcontracts No Yes
      Direct costs entered into the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section of the “Budget Period Detail” Yes Yes
      Indirect costs entered into the “Indirect” section of the “Budget Period Detail” Yes Yes
      Key personnel biosketches Yes Yes
      Key personnel current and pending support Yes Yes
      Renewable reagents and data-sharing plan No (contact PI to submit one overall document) No
      Resources research and environment No (contact PI to submit one overall document) No
      Budget justification No (a justification should be included in the budget template) No (a justification should be included in the budget template)
  9. Budget Summary: The “Budget Summary” will populate from the saved “Budget Period Detail” section.
  10. Organization Assurances: Indicate the use of human participants or vertebrate animals in this section and the status of approval from the Institutional Review Board or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Grants cannot activate without current human participant and/or ethical animal research approval.
  11. Proposal Attachments: The following documents are to be uploaded in the “Proposal Attachments” section, where they are also available for download.
    1. Specific Aims Page: The Specific Aims Page should not exceed one (1) page and should be a summary of the proposed project focused on the research aims of the project, including a concise rationale for the hypothesis, a description of preliminary data and experimental approach and the impact on autism research.
    2. Proposal Narrative: The Proposal Narrative should not exceed five  (5) pages of single-spaced, size 11-point text, 0.5-inch margins. The Proposal Narrative should be considered an expanded version of the Specific Aims Page and used to provide more detail on the following:
      1. Relevant scientific background
      2. Preliminary results when applicable
      3. Specific aims
      4. Experimental design
      5. Pitfalls and alternative strategies
      6. Project significance and relevance to autism
      7. Timeline and milestones
      8. Figures, figure legends and references should follow the narrative text and will NOT count towards the page limit. References should be in Journal of Neuroscience format, including full author list, title and a link to PubMed. Figures are limited to ten (10), each fitting on a single page. Please attach figures at the end of the five (5)-page narrative in the same PDF file.

    3. Human Participants Study Information Sheet: Required only for investigators proposing to conduct human participant research/clinical studies.
    4. Investigational Compound Information Sheet: Required only for investigators proposing to use chemicals or pharmaceutical compounds in animal research.
    5. Statement of Changes Template: Required only for investigators who are resubmitting an application previously submitted to SFARI.
    6. Biographical Sketches of Key Personnel
    7. Budget Justification
    8. Budget Templates:
      1. Multiple PIs: Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid separately must submit a signed budget template for each PI institution.
      2. Subcontract: Applications with subcontracts must submit a budget template.
    9. Progress Report: Investigators currently receiving SFARI funding on science relevant for the current proposal should include a progress report in two (2) pages or less.
    10. Research Environment and Resources
    11. Renewable Reagents and Data-Sharing Plan
    12. Current and Pending Support: Please upload current and pending support for all PIs and key personnel.
    13. 501(c)(3) determination or equivalency letter (foreign institutions only): Please upload, if available, a copy of your U.S. IRS 501(c)(3) determination or equivalency letter as part of the application. (See Simons Foundation policies.)
    14. Signed Signature Page: Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid separately must submit a signed signature page from each PI institution.
  12. PI Data Sheet: Your professional profile will populate this section of the application. If revisions are required, please select “Edit Professional Profile” and go to section 4 (“Personal Data for Applications”). Please note that the contact PI’s ORCID identifier is required. Once the PI’s ORCID iD is provided, you will be able to sync a limited amount of data from your ORCID account with your pC account.
  13. Validate: You must click the “Validate” button to check for any missing required information or files. All missing required information will be listed on the screen. Please correct any missing information before proceeding to the next step.
  14. Signature Page(s): The signed signature page is available for download in this section and must be signed by the signing official, then re-uploaded in the “Proposal Attachments” section. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid separately must submit a signed signature page for each PI institution.
  15. Submit: You will be unable to submit if you have not provided all the required information. Any missing information will be listed on the screen. If your submission is successful, you will receive a confirmation message on the screen and a confirmation email will be sent to the applicant.

Please note that narratives exceeding the five (5)-page limit will not be reviewed. Figures (up to 10, fitting on one page each), figure legends and references (formatted in the Journal of Neuroscience style) are not included in the page limit.

Contacts:

Administrative inquiries:  sfarigrants@simonsfoundation.org  646-654-0066
Scientific inquiries: sciencerfa@simonsfoundation.org  646-654-0066
proposalCENTRAL: pcsupport@altum.com 800-875-2562
Simons Collections: collections@sfari.org 646-654-0666
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Maximum Budget

The annual budget is between $200,000 and $400,000
Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) or three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Informational Zoom Meeting
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Award Start Dates: Dec 2021, Jan 2022, Feb 2022
Contact Info
  • Eligibilityplus--large
      Am I eligible to be a principal investigator (PI) on a SFARI award?plus--large

      All applicants and key collaborators must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or the equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility. Applications may be submitted by domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations; public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories, units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government. There are no citizenship or country requirements. See the “Personnel FAQ” section for more information on the responsibilities of a SFARI principal investigator.

      Principal investigators (PIs) who do not have substantial ASD clinical expertise should include a close collaborator with such expertise on their grant application (e.g., multi-PI application).

      Can postdoctoral associates apply as PIs? plus--large

      No, postdoctoral associates may not apply as PIs even if your institution is willing to submit an application on your behalf.

      Senior postdoctoral research associates who are interested in pursuing an independent career in autism research are encouraged to apply for SFARI’s Bridge to Independence Award RFA.

      Can foreign institutions apply for a grant?plus--large

      Yes, foreign institutions may apply. Please see Simons Foundation policies regarding international grants.

      I am a recipient of the SFARI Bridge to Independence (BTI) award. Am I eligible to apply as a PI to the 2021 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Genetic Therapies RFA? plus--large

      BTI awardees may not apply to be PIs on a SFARI application within two years of the BTI grant start date. However, BTI awardees may be named in other personnel roles, including co-investigator and consultant. After the two-year moratorium, BTI awardees may apply as a PI for any SFARI grant program. Note that this moratorium applies only to SFARI grants and no other grant award programs within the Simons Foundation, such as the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain or the Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Awards.

  • Personnelplus--large
      What is the difference between a principal investigator (PI) and a co-investigator?plus--large

      Principal Investigator
      The individual(s) judged by the applicant organization to have the appropriate level of authority and responsibility to direct the project or program supported by the grant. All PIs must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or the equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility. In addition, eligible applicants must have independent lab space at their institution. He or she is responsible and accountable to the applicant organization and SFARI for the proper conduct of the project or activity, including the submission of all required reports. He or she will act as the main point of contact for the foundation.

      Co-investigator
      An individual involved with the PI in the scientific development or execution of a project. The co-investigator must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent and be employed by, or affiliated with, the applicant/grantee organization or another organization participating in the project under a consortium agreement. A co-investigator is considered key personnel, but the Simons Foundation does not require a minimum effort from the co-investigator. The designation of a co-investigator, if applicable, does not affect the PI’s roles and responsibilities, nor is it a role implying multiple PIs.

      Is there a minimum percent effort for PIs or co-investigators?plus--large

      We seek applications from independent investigators who can devote a substantial portion of time to this effort. There is no minimum percent effort required for any personnel, but we expect personnel, in particular PIs and co-investigators, to have efforts that reflect their roles in the project.

      Can multiple PIs apply for a grant?plus--large

      When relevant, the applicant organization may designate multiple individuals as PIs who share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically. Each PI is responsible and accountable to the applicant organization or, as appropriate, to a collaborating organization, for the proper conduct of the project or program, including the submission of all required reports. The presence of more than one identified PI on an application or award diminishes neither the responsibility nor the accountability of any individual PI.

      Principal investigators (PIs) who do not have substantial ASD clinical expertise should include a close collaborator with such expertise on their grant application (e.g., multi-PI application).

      The first PI listed, under whose name the application is submitted, will serve as the contact PI for administrative purposes. The contact PI must be affiliated with the institution submitting the application. The contact PI will be responsible for communication between SFARI and the rest of the leadership team.

      The role type “Co-PI” will not be used by SFARI.

      How do I designate multiple PIs on the application?plus--large
      • Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions that would like to be paid separately must upload the following items in the proposal attachments section:
        • Signed signature page for each PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        • Budget template for each non-applicant PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        • The direct costs for all non-applicant PIs must be included in the “Budget Period Detail” section in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section, and indirect costs for all non-applicant PIs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each non-applicant PI.
      • Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution are considered subcontracts. Subcontracts must submit:
        • Subcontract Detailed Budget (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections) for each subcontract.
        • Subcontract direct costs must be included in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section, and subcontract indirect costs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each subcontract.
        • Only one signature page from the institution of the applicant PI submitting the application is required.
      • Applications with multiple PIs from the same institution do not need to submit additional materials. Additional non-applicant PIs should be listed as key personnel in the “Key Personnel” section and in the “Budget Period Detail” section, and only one signature page is needed.
      As the contact PI, should I be listed as key personnel in the application on proposalCENTRAL (pC)?plus--large

      No, please list only additional key personnel on the application (i.e., co-investigators, non-contact PI(s), postdoctoral research associates, etc.).

      Where do I enter additional co-investigators and additional key personnel?plus--large

      You can save personnel details in the “Key Personnel” section on the application.

      Can co-investigators and additional personnel be listed on multiple applications?plus--large

      Yes, co-investigators and additional personnel can be listed on multiple applications.

      Does the Simons Foundation require letters of support or collaboration?plus--large

      We do not require letters of support or letters of collaboration from co-investigators. If a letter is prepared, it can be uploaded as “Appendix – In-press papers on related topics.”

  • Submissionplus--large
      What is the submission schedule? plus--large

      The submission schedule is as follows:

      • May 3, 2021, RFA opens
      • July 6, 2021, full application submission deadline
      Where do I submit the proposal?plus--large

      New users first need to register on proposalCENTRAL (pC). For all users, log in and select “Create New Proposal” or click on the “Grant Opportunities” tab. The SFARI programs will be listed during the submission period. Click “Apply Now” to start the application and access the template. After all sections are completed and your application PDF is uploaded, you will be able to hit the “Submit” button to send the application.

      How do I create a proposalCENTRAL user account?plus--large

      Go to https://proposalcentral.com/ and click “Create An Account Now.” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to proposalCENTRAL’s “Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy” and then click “Save.”

      Can I email or mail a proposal?plus--large

      No, the Simons Foundation accepts only applications submitted online through pC.

      Can someone else (assistant, staff member, etc.) submit my application for me?plus--large

      Yes, you can add users with administrator access to the pC application so that someone other than the principal investigator (PI) can edit and submit the application.

      Can I change the contact PI?plus--large

      Yes, linked instructions for how to change the contact PI can be found in the application. The person who starts an application will be named as the PI on the Applicant/PI page. If the Applicant/PI section does not show the correct person (e.g., someone else started the online application and you are the PI, or you started the application and someone else is the PI), you must update this section before submitting.

      Does the PI need to sign the signature page?plus--large

      No, only the signing official is required to sign the signature page.

      Where is the Submit button?plus--large

      The “Submit” button is located in the last section of the application. You will be unable to submit if you have not provided all the required information. If the submission deadline has NOT passed, use the “Validate” button to check for missing requirements. If the problem persists, please contact pcsupport@altum.com.

      If the deadline has passed, the submission period has closed, and you will not be able to submit.

      I get an error message citing a missing section when I try to submit.plus--large

      The “Validate” button reviews your application for missing sections. The submission instructions list the required sections and attachments. You must complete the missing sections listed. If you are still receiving error messages after completing and saving the indicated sections, please contact pcsupport@altum.com.

      Are deadline times adjusted for time zones?plus--large

      No, please be advised that application deadlines on the application are in Eastern Time. We recommend registering early and submitting applications with ample time for corrections prior to the deadline hour. Site traffic can slow page-load times. The “Submit” button will not work after the deadline time has passed.

      Is there a confirmation email when I submit?plus--large

      A confirmation email is sent upon submission of the application. Please contact pcsupport@altum.com if you submitted your application and have not received a confirmation email within 10 minutes. Make sure that spam filters allow emails from pcsupport@altum.com. The application will be in the “Submitted” tab when you next log in.

      Can I make changes to the application once it has been submitted?plus--large

      Before you can make changes to your submitted application, you must first contact the Simons Foundation. Please email sfgrants@simonsfoundation.org or call (646) 654-0066. Applications can only be changed prior to the deadline.

      Is validating my proposal the same as submitting it?plus--large

      No. “Validating” the proposal checks for errors and omissions and will alert you to missing requirements of your application. If the application is complete, you must then click the “Submit” button. You will receive an email within 10 minutes and should contact pcsupport@altum.com if you do not receive confirmation and do not see your application in the “Submitted” tab or with the status changed to “Submitted.”

      The funding notification date has passed, and I haven’t received a notification. What is the status of my proposal?plus--large

      You should receive notification within 24 hours of the deadline. Please check your spam filter settings if you have not received notification by then.

  • Proposalplus--large
      What should be included in the Specific Aims Page?plus--large

      The Specific Aims Page should be a summary of the proposed project focused on the research aims of the project, including a concise rationale for the hypothesis, description of preliminary data and experimental approach, and impact on autism research.

      What is the page limit for the Specific Aims Page?plus--large

      The Specific Aims Page should not exceed one (1) page of single-spaced, size 11-point text, 0.5-inch margins.

      What is the page limit for the Proposal Narrative?plus--large

      Proposal Narratives should not exceed five (5) pages single-spaced, size 11-point text, 0.5-inch margins. Figures, figure legends and references should follow the narrative text and will NOT count towards the page limit.

      How should the Proposal Narrative be organized?plus--large

      The Proposal Narrative should be considered an expanded version of the Specific Aims Page and used to provide more detail on the following:

      • Relevant scientific background
      • Preliminary results when applicable
      • Specific aims
      • Experimental design
      • Pitfalls and alternative strategies
      • Project significance and relevance to autism
      • Timeline and milestones

      SFARI considers the following information crucial for the evaluation of a project and encourages including the following details (where relevant):

      • Induced pluripotent stem cell lines and controls to be used and their availability
      • Animal model strains/lines and their availability
      • Patient cohorts used (including source of participants, sample size and availability of genetic data). Investigators should also complete the Human Participants Study Information Sheet.
      • Datasets or biospecimen collections to be used (including SFARI resources) and their availability
      • A brief statement of statistical power
      • Investigators should refer to the Methodological and Statistical Considerations Sheet for further information on necessary experimental detail to include in the proposal narrative.
      Are references, figures and figure legends included in the Proposal Narrative page limit? How should they be included?plus--large

      References, figures and figure legends are not included in the page limits for the Proposal Narrative, although we have a limit of ten (10) figures (each fitting on a single page). Please attach them at the end of the narrative in the same PDF file. The Simons Foundation’s preference is for figures to follow the narrative rather than be embedded in the text. References should be in Journal of Neuroscience format, including full author list, title and a link to PubMed. The Simons Foundation does not require a minimum number of figures.

      What can I include as an appendix?plus--large

      In-press papers can be included as appendices, as well as any papers that you consider essential for the work of the review committee, but include no more than three (3) papers. Any other material should be included, if possible, in the narrative. If you have video attachments for your proposal, please upload them as an appendix (all file types are accepted).

      I plan to recruit human participants for my proposed study. Do I need to provide more information beyond what is included in my Proposal Narrative?plus--large

      Yes. All applications proposing to recruit human participants must complete the Human Participants Study Information Sheet available in proposalCENTRAL.

  • Budgetplus--large
      What do I do if there is a subcontract on the application? plus--large

      Applications with a subcontract (including PIs who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution) must submit:

      • Subcontract Detailed Budget (available for download in the “Proposal Subcontract Detailed Budget” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections) for each subcontract.
      • Subcontract direct costs must be included in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section, and subcontract indirect costs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each subcontract.
      Are indirect costs included in the budget limits?plus--large

      Yes. The total budget is $1,200,000 or less, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to three (3) years. Please note that indirect costs cannot be taken on equipment with a unit cost of more than $10,000.

      We strongly encourage investigators to tailor their requested budgets and duration to levels appropriate for the scope of their specific aims. As with all SFARI-funded projects, it is at the Simons Foundation’s discretion to modify final budgets as needed. It is to the investigator’s advantage to include realistic budget estimations in their initial grant application.

  • Accessing Simons Collection Resources (i.e., SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK and AIC)plus--large
      How can I find out more about available data and biospecimens (where applicable) from the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), Simons Searchlight, SPARK and Autism Inpatient Collection (AIC)?plus--large

      Please see the SPARK and Simons Searchlight webpages for more information about each respective cohort and their available data and biospecimens. In addition, information about biospecimens available from individuals who are participating in Simons Searchlight is available here and here. You can request more detailed genetic or phenotypic information about the SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK and AIC on SFARI Base. If you do not have a SFARI Base account, you must create one. If you have problems with the login or have questions regarding the collections, please email collections@sfari.org.

      Are biospecimens available from SPARK?plus--large

      No, but phenotypic and genetic data are currently available to approved researchers via SFARI Base.

      How can I apply to recruit SPARK and Simons Searchlight participants for my research studies?plus--large

      Researchers may submit an application on SFARI Base. The SPARK and Simons Searchlight Participant Access Committee considers applications on a quarterly basis, but applications may be submitted at any time. Please refer to the SPARK recruitment process document for more details and email collections@sfari.org with any questions.

      Do budget limits include the cost of purchasing SSC and Simons Searchlight biospecimens?plus--large

      No, SSC, Simons Searchlight and AIC biospecimen costs are not included in the budget limit. Prices can be found on the price list on our website.

      How can I apply to access human post-mortem brain tissue from Autism BrainNet?plus--large

      Researchers may submit an application through the Autism BrainNet website. Information on ABN tissue and data are available in the Autism BrainNet tissue catalogue.

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