Analysis of postmortem brain tissue from the Autism BrainNet collection — Request for applications

Grants awarded through this request for applications are intended to advance the understanding of autism spectrum disorder through analyses of human postmortem brain tissue donated to the Autism BrainNet collection.
 
The annual budget is between $300,000 and $1,000,000, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) years.
 
We encourage proposals from multiple investigators only when such collaborations are well justified by the expected benefits to the proposal. For collaborative proposals, the annual budget can exceed the project cap stated above but should not exceed a total of $2,000,000 inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs.

Application Deadline
Maximum Budget

Between $300,000 and $1,000,000 Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Awards Start
Maximum Budget

Between $300,000 and $1,000,000 Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Awards Start
Contact Info
Read More
Maximum Budget

Between $300,000 and $1,000,000 Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Awards Start
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.

Objectives

Grants awarded through this request for applications (RFA) are intended to advance the understanding of ASD through analyses of human postmortem brain tissue donated to the Autism BrainNet collection.

Through this RFA, we encourage individual and collaborative applications that study and compare gene expression at the tissue and single-cell level. Such analyses could also include alternative splicing/isoform analysis, RNA editing, noncoding RNAs, epigenetic modifications and/or proteomics. We also welcome studies of cellular neuroanatomy and immunohistochemical research on identified transmitter systems. For all studies, there is a nonexclusive emphasis on the cortex.

About Autism BrainNet

Autism BrainNet is a collaborative network for the acquisition of postmortem brain tissue for research on autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions supported by SFARI. Autism BrainNet was launched in 2014 with the goal of increasing the number and the quality of postmortem brain tissue samples from individuals with autism; distributing this tissue to facilitate research into the anatomical, molecular and genetic underpinnings of autism; and replicating and supporting findings from previous neuroanatomical and preclinical studies.

Characteristics and Processing of Donated Tissue

Donations are processed according to the Autism BrainNet Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which will be made available to applicants. Briefly, whenever possible, one hemisphere is frozen and the other is fixed. Most samples have undergone long-term fixation but recently acquired samples involve ‘minimal fixation’ of 48–72 hours.

A summary of the clinical and tissue data is available here, but we encourage applicants to obtain access and become familiar with the complete Autism BrainNet database, which is available to approved investigators through SFARI Base. We also encourage investigators to familiarize themselves with SFARI-funded projects that use postmortem brain tissue. A list is of these studies is provided at the end of this page.

Though the number of donations will increase, as of November 1, 2021, the Autism BrainNet collection consists of 248 brains, including 80 from individuals with a confirmed diagnosis of autism and 30 individuals whose diagnosis is currently under review; 24 brains from individuals with other related neurodevelopmental conditions but without a diagnosis of autism; 95 brains from individuals with no known psychiatric or neurological conditions (‘controls’); 4 brains from individuals with epilepsy without ASD diagnosis, and 12 from individuals whose diagnosis of ASD could not be confirmed, which are not currently available for distribution. Autism BrainNet includes 17 donors age 10 and younger (7 autism confirmed, 8 with rare genetic conditions). There are more than 60 donors who are up to 20 years old (32 autism confirmed, 13 with rare genetic conditions plus 13 controls); almost a third of the overall collection is female. Donated frozen tissue is available from 54 individuals with autism; donated fixed tissue is available from 70 individuals with autism. Note that while historically the majority of the donations were processed as half-fixed and half-frozen, some donations were only frozen or only fixed.

As clinical review of the cases is completed, the numbers will be modified accordingly (with a goal of 100+ ASD confirmed cases available in 2022). More information about available specimens can be found in the Autism BrainNet Tissue Catalogue.

Also available in the Autism BrainNet Tissue Catalogue is tissue collected by the Autism Tissue Program (ATP) between 1999 and 2014, under the auspices of Autism Speaks. This includes limited remaining fixed and frozen tissue from ASD-confirmed donors and donors without ASD. The numbers presented above are not inclusive of the ATP resource. Tissue from the ATP collection can also be included in the proposed studies.

An effort is also in progress for sectioning the frontal lobe and temporal lobe blocks from 40 donors, 20 from individuals with a confirmed autism diagnosis and 20 from individuals with no known psychiatric or neurological conditions. These long-term fixed cases have been dissected into large blocks, cryoprotected and frozen. A large block that includes much of the frontal lobe and a second large block that includes much of the temporal lobe are currently being processed. Sections are being cut at 50 µm and 100 µm. The second block contains the amygdala, hippocampal formation and temporal neocortex. The coronal blocks are being cut on a freezing, sliding microtome at 50µm or 100µm. There are eight continuous series processed through the entire block according to the following schedule: 1 —50μm, 2 —50μm, 3 —50μm, 4 —100 μm, 5 —100μm, 6 —50μm, 7 —50μm, 8 —50μm. Sections in series one, therefore, are separated by 500µm. The 100µm sections are intended for use in quantitative stereological studies, and the 50µm sections are intended for immunohistochemical or other techniques for which the thinner sections are appropriate. Block-face images have been taken as the blocks were sectioned in order to provide orientation to the rostrocaudal level of the sections. Selected series of sections (or portions of each section) are available on request for individual research projects. We expect the tissue to be available for distribution by the time the awards funded through this RFA are announced.

Genomic and Clinical Data Available for Donated Tissue

Whole-exome (100x coverage) and whole-genome sequencing (30x coverage) and genotyping arrays (Illumina Infinium QC array) of brain tissue from individuals with autism is being performed at the New York Genome Center. SFARI will make every effort to make both the raw data and the variant calls (vcf files) available to researchers prior to this RFA’s application deadline. A subset of the donations has undergone classical neuropathological analysis. The presence of either gross or microscopic pathology has been summarized for these cases. The results of such an examination will be available to researchers after permission to access the database is granted.

Clinical data, collected according to the SOPs available to all applicants, will also accompany the tissue, including but not limited to raw and algorithm scores from a postmortem Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) evaluation to confirm the diagnosis of autism (carried out by the clinical team of Autism BrainNet), as well as co-occurring medical and psychological conditions as evidenced by documentation obtained for each donor. This includes, when possible, medical records, psychological evaluations, educational records, autopsy reports and other information.

Evaluation of Proposals

Priority will be given to those efforts that will lead to the most comprehensive characterization of the tissue and generate large shareable data sets. Consideration will also be given to those proposals making use of both the frozen and fixed tissue, preferably from the same donor, with attention given to the ways in which these data sets can be harmonized to facilitate sharing.

Researchers applying to test a narrow or specialized hypothesis should provide an explanation of how their proposal fulfills the RFA criteria or should consider applying to the annual SFARI Pilot RFA.

While funding will be limited to the generation of data exclusively from the Autism BrainNet tissue, applicants are also encouraged to compare results of this analysis with data obtained from previous analyses of autism brain tissue cohorts, from cohorts of individuals with related neurodevelopmental conditions and from available data obtained through the study of the developing human brain.

Applicants should consider and justify their choice of platform for data generation and pipeline for data analysis both in terms of answering a specific research question and in generating a legacy data set for use by other researchers. They should describe in detail how the data will be generated, processed and formatted so as to be easily compared with other publicly available data sets (e.g., BrainSpan, PsychENCODE).

Applicants should demonstrate experience and proficiency in the use of the proposed technologies, as well as document the reliability of such technologies and the performance of data analysis pipelines as applied to frozen or fixed human tissue. Applicants should also demonstrate experience in working with human brain tissue and knowledge of brain anatomy. The inclusion of a team member/consultant with experience in these areas is strongly encouraged.

Applicants are encouraged to include in their team a clinical expert who will act as a consultant for the analysis of the clinical data associated with the tissue.

Applicants should clearly describe the size and precise location of the cortical, subcortical and cerebellar areas requested and should provide a justification for their choice of area and amount of tissue requested. Applicants are strongly encouraged to provide preliminary data on the feasibility of their analytical approaches, a calculation estimating statistical power and, in the case of a specific antibody, a demonstration that such antibody works in human brain tissue.

***Note: Researchers do not need to be funded through this RFA to use Autism BrainNet tissue in their studies. Autism BrainNet tissue can be requested at any time. More information on how to submit a request can be found here.

Data Sharing

A detailed data-sharing plan is essential and should include a timeline indicating frequency of data deposition to SFARI Base repositories. We expect that this timeline will not exceed six months from the time of data generation for raw data (e.g., FASTQ files). Any embargo should not exceed six months. The data-sharing plan should include processed data (e.g., read counts per gene), relevant metadata (e.g., quality metrics, analysis pipeline) and an estimate of the size of the data (e.g., GB per file). If a data repository external to SFARI Base is to be used as the primary repository, this choice needs to be justified. Duplicate submissions of processed data to multiple repositories do not need to be justified.

SFARI is committed to allowing grantees to publish an initial global analysis of their data set in a reasonable timeframe and will negotiate further details once awardees have been selected.

SFARI will likely invite grantees to periodic meetings at regular intervals as a form of informal collaboration to share data, protocols, updates and challenges.

Level and Duration of Funding

The annual budget is between $300,000 and $1,000,000, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) years.

This wide range will allow applications for proposals and durations appropriate for the scope of their specific aims. We expect that analyses of greater depth and that are applied to multiple regions and cell types using state-of-the-art ‘omics’ technologies will require larger budgets.
It is at the foundation’s discretion to modify final budgets as needed.

Progress toward the specific aims and data sharing will be critically evaluated at the end of the first year, 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 encourage proposals from multiple investigators only when such collaborations are well justified by the expected benefits to the proposal. For collaborative proposals, the annual budget can exceed the project cap stated above but should not exceed a total of $2,000,000 inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs.

Eligibility and Collaboration

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. Applications may also be submitted by for-profit companies, in which case the funds provided for the grant are to be used only for charitable purposes toward research related to autism spectrum disorders. There are no citizenship or national residence requirements.

If the proposal includes investigators at more than one site, all investigators should have demonstrated prior success in similar collaborations.

Application Requirements

Applications should include the following:

  1. Narrative, not to exceed five pages (excluding references, figures and figure legends). Proposals should include specific aims, background relevant to the application, significance of the proposed studies, preliminary results, experimental design, pitfalls and alternative strategies, and a timeline with milestones.
  2. Biosketches for Principal Investigator(s) and Key Collaborators.
  3. Current and pending support for Principal Investigator(s) and Key Collaborators.
  4. Budget — We expect to fund several awards in the $300,000 to $1,000,000 range (including indirect costs). Proposals should include a realistic budget with sufficient detail to evaluate the need for requested resources. SFARI will work closely with investigative teams with competitive applications to arrive at a suitable budget. Indirect costs are limited to 20 percent of the modified total direct costs (see SFARI policies).
  5. The raw data (CRAM, VCF files) will be stored in the SFARI AWS repositories (the cost of this storage will be directly paid by SFARI) and will be accessed by researchers through their own AWS accounts for computation only. The same data will be available for downloading using Globus endpoint at Flatiron Institute. Applicants should detail a strategy and estimate a budget for computing costs (either cloud or academic computing facility).
  6. Applications with multiple Principal Investigators from different institutions that would like to be paid separately must include a signed budget template and budget justification for each Principal Investigator’s institution. Applications with subcontracts must include a budget and budget justification. The budget template and budget justification are available for download in the proposal attachments section of proposalCENTRAL’s full application.
  7. Research environment and resources. Investigators should demonstrate access to appropriate resources for high-capacity data analysis and computation.
  8. Data-sharing plan — The plan should include the sharing of all raw data and relevant processed data, in addition to sharing any new algorithms/data visualization tools that are a direct result of this award. SFARI will work closely with awarded investigative teams to ensure that the plan includes timely dissemination of data.

For more details, see the Instructions document, which is available for download in the Proposal Attachments section of proposalCENTRAL.

Application Deadline

The deadline for full proposal submission is January 10, 2022. No extensions will be given. If you have any difficulties, please contact sfgrants@simonsfoundation.org

Competitive applications will receive external peer review. SFARI will make final funding decisions; notification of award is anticipated by April 29, 2022 with funding expected to begin July 1, 2022.

Instructions for submission

Applications must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at proposalCENTRAL. Please log in as an applicant, scroll to Simons Foundation and click on the program.

Past and current SFARI-funded projects using postmortem brain tissue

*Denotes studies that have used or are planning to use postmortem brain tissue from Autism BrainNet.

Read More
proposalCENTRAL Logo

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

Maximum Budget

Between $300,000 and $1,000,000 Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Awards Start
Contact Info

The deadline for application submission is January 10, 2022, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

ProposalCentral Log-in Information

Applications must be submitted 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 ?” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to PC’s terms of service and acceptable use policy and submit.

If You Have an Existing Account in PC

For all users with a PC account, log in under “Applicant or Awardee” at ProposalCentral and select “Create New Proposal” or click on the “Grant Opportunities” tab. Scroll down to “Simons Foundation” and click “Apply Now” for the “Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative – Autism BrainNet Analysis” program to start the proposal and access the templates. After all sections are completed, you will be able to click on the “Submit” button to send.

To submit an application, you must complete the following ProposalCentral sections:

  1. Title Page: Enter the proposal title in this section.
  2. Download Templates and Instructions: All templates necessary to complete your proposal are available for download in this module (or the “Proposal Attachments” module, where attachments are submitted as PDF-only files; see the “Proposal Attachments” section below for more details).
  3. Enable Other Users to Access This Proposal: This section allows you to give other users access to your grant application. You have the option of giving them one of three levels of permission: view, edit or administrator.
  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: Contact information for the signing official and the 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 PIs, co-investigators, consultants and postdoctoral research associates. In rare circumstances, the applicant organization may designate multiple PIs who share the authority and responsibility for leading the project intellectually and logistically. For more information on the responsibilities of PIs, please refer to the Simons Foundation policies.
  7. Abstract: Enter your abstract as text in this section.
  8. Budget Period Detail: Enter your budget period detail in this section.
    1. Award start date: Funding will begin on July 1, 2022
    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 be a leading intellectual and guiding role. 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).
        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.
    3. Indirect costs (IDC): Indirect costs to the primary institution are limited to 20 percent of direct costs with the following exceptions: equipment, tuition and any portion of each subcontract in excess of $25,000. The primary institution may take indirect costs on the first $25,000 modified total direct costs of each subcontract. Indirect costs paid to a subcontractor may not exceed 20 percent of the modified total direct costs paid to the subcontractor.
    4. Equipment: The Simons Foundation (SF) will own equipment purchased with SF grant funds with a unit cost of $50,000 or more. At the end of the grant funding period or in the case of grant termination for any reason, SF reserves the right to retain ownership or cede ownership to the PI’s institution. Equipment with a unit cost of less than $50,000 shall be the property of the institution.
    5. Biospecimens:If the proposal includes the use of Simons Collection biospecimens (i.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.
    6. Budget: The maximum annual total budget is $1,000,000, including indirect costs, for up to two years.
    7. 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 coordinate 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 nonapplicant PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        3. The direct and indirect costs for all nonapplicant PIs. Direct costs must be included in section 8 (Budget Period Detail) in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section, and indirect costs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” Please add a separate line for direct costs and one for indirect costs for each nonapplicant PI.
      3. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution are considered subcontracts. Please refer to the subcontract instructions in section 8h below.
      4. Applications with multiple PIs from the same institution do not need to submit additional materials. Additional nonapplicant PIs should be listed as key personnel in section 6 (Key Personnel) and section 8 (Budget Period Detail), and only one signature page is needed.
    8. Subcontracts:
      1. Applications with subcontracts (including PIs who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution) must include:
        1. Subcontract detailed budget (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections) for each subcontract.
        2. Subcontract direct and indirect costs. 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 direct costs and one for indirect costs for each subcontract.
  9. Budget Summary: The budget summary will populate from the saved detailed budget.
  10. Organization Assurances: Indicate use of human participants or vertebrate animals in this section and status of approval from the Institutional Review Board or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Grants cannot activate without current human participant and/or animal research ethical approval.
  11. Proposal Attachments: The following documents are to be uploaded in this 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, description of preliminary data and experimental approach, and impact on autism.
    2. Proposal Narrative: The Proposal Narrative should not exceed five (5) pages of single-spaced, size 11 text, 0.5 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) and demonstration of feasibility in postmortem human tissue
      3. Specific aims
      4. Experimental design
      5. Pitfalls and alternative strategies
      6. Project significance and relevance to autism
      7. Timeline and milestones

      Figures, figure legends and references should follow the narrative text and will NOT count toward 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 10, each fitting on a single page. Please attach them at the end of the seven-page narrative in the same PDF file.

    3. Statement of Changes Template: Required only for investigators who are resubmitting an application previously submitted to SFARI.
    4. Biographical sketch of key personnel.
    5. Budget justification.
    6. Budget templates:
      1. Multiple PIs: Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Research environment and resources.
    9. Renewable reagents and data-sharing plan.
    10. Current and pending support: Please upload current and pending support both for PIs and for key personnel.
    11. 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.)
    12. 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).
  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 supply 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” Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who 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.

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

Read More
Maximum Budget

Between $300,000 and $1,000,000 Inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, for a period of two (2) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Awards Start
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. In addition, eligible applicants must have independent lab space at their institution. 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.

      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.

  • 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.

      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 nonapplicant PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        • The direct costs for all nonapplicant PIs must be included in section 8 (“Budget Period Detail”) in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section, and indirect costs for all nonapplicant PIs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each nonapplicant 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 nonapplicant 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.
      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, noncontact PI(s), postdoctoral research associates).

      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:

      • November 22, 2021 RFA opens
      • January 10, 2022 Application 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 submit the application.

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

      Go to https://proposalcentral.com/ and click “Need an account?” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to ProposalCentral’s “Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy” and 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, select 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.

  • Resubmissions and Renewalsplus--large
      Can PIs submit multiple applications?plus--large

      Principal Investigators may submit multiple applications for funding during the 2021–2022 cycle; however, SFARI is exceedingly unlikely to award more than one grant to a given PI in a single year.

      Can PIs resubmit unfunded applications?plus--large

      Unsuccessful applications submitted to previous SFARI RFAs may be resubmitted in subsequent RFAs. For all resubmissions, we ask PIs to submit a statement of changes describing substantive changes to the application since the previous submission. If the previous application was externally reviewed, this document should include point-by-point responses to the reviewers’ critiques. This document will be used primarily by SFARI’s internal scientific staff, although in some cases portions of it may be shared with external reviewers at SFARI’s discretion. If the revised application does not include substantive changes, it is unlikely that the outcome will change. This is especially true for applications that were not externally reviewed, as this decision is often based on the relevance of the project to SFARI’s mission.

  • 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 text, 0.5 margins.

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

      Proposal Narratives should not exceed five (5) pages of single-spaced, size 11 text, 0.5 margins. Figures, figure legends and references should follow the narrative text and will NOT count toward 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) and demonstration of feasibility in postmortem human tissue
      • 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.
      • Data sets or biospecimen collections to be used (including SFARI resources) and their availability
      • A brief statement of statistical power
      • Feasibility
      • 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 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.

      What is a “Statement of Changes”?plus--large

      For all resubmissions, we ask PIs to submit a “Statement of Changes” document describing substantive changes to the application since the previous submission. If the previous application was externally reviewed, this document should include point-by-point responses to the reviewers’ critiques. This document will be used primarily by SFARI’s internal scientific staff, although in some cases, portions of it may be shared with external reviewers at SFARI’s discretion.

      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 (not 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 as an appendix (all file types are accepted).

  • 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” 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 annual maximum allowable budget is $1,000,000, which includes indirect costs at 20 percent. Please note that indirect costs cannot be taken on equipment with a unit cost of more than $10,000 or on tuition or SSC and Simons Searchlight biospecimens. Indirect costs to the main institution on the first $25,000 of a subcontract are NOT included in the $1,000,000 limit.

  • 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 Autism BrainNet, the SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK and the Autism Inpatient Collection (AIC)? plus--large

      You can access and request information about Autism BrainNet, the SSC, Simons Searchlight, SPARK and the AIC on SFARI Base. If you do not have SFARI Base account, you must create one. If you have problems with the log in or have questions regarding the collections, please email collections@sfari.org.

      How can I find out more about the data collected from SPARK participants? plus--large

      Please see the SPARK webpage for more information about the SPARK cohort and available data. You can access and request information about the data collected from SPARK via SFARI Base. If you do not have a SFARI Base account, you must create one. If you have problems with the log in 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 participants for my research studies?plus--large

      Researchers may submit an application on SFARI Base. The SPARK 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. There are no costs for the investigators for Autism BrainNet tissue, except from shipping costs.

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive SFARI funding announcements and news