Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and Genetic Therapies – Request for Applications

Grants awarded through this request for applications (RFA) are intended to improve our understanding of the molecular and cellular consequences of genetic risk for ASD, and to provide a foundation for the development of new therapies. Special emphasis is placed on the use of scalable methods, especially as applied to genes that are suitable targets for genetic therapies.

There are three budget tracks, depending on the scope of the project: an Explorer track of up to $400,000 over a period of up to two (2) years; an Expansion track of up to $1,500,000 over a period of up to three (3) years; and a Collaboration track of up to $750,000 per lab over a period of up to three (3) years. All budget figures are inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs.

RFA Informational Session
Maximum Budget

Explorer Track
$400,000 over a period of up to two (2) years
Expansion Track
$1,500,000 over a period of up to three (3) years
Collaboration Track
$750,000 per lab over a period of up to three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • RFA Informational Session
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
    December 2022
  • Award Start Dates
    March/April 2023
Maximum Budget

Explorer Track
$400,000 over a period of up to two (2) years
Expansion Track
$1,500,000 over a period of up to three (3) years
Collaboration Track
$750,000 per lab over a period of up to three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • RFA Informational Session
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
    December 2022
  • Award Start Dates
    March/April 2023
Contact Info
Read More
Maximum Budget

Explorer Track
$400,000 over a period of up to two (2) years
Expansion Track
$1,500,000 over a period of up to three (3) years
Collaboration Track
$750,000 per lab over a period of up to three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • RFA Informational Session
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
    December 2022
  • Award Start Dates
    March/April 2023
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 Searchlight and the Simons Simplex Collection. Although important progress has been made in leveraging these genetic findings to better understand the biological underpinnings of ASD, much remains to be done.

In this RFA we seek proposals in three different areas, with the common goal of identifying new possibilities for intervention. The first will do so by identifying possible points of biological convergence among multiple genetic risk factors, which might then suggest new therapeutic targets. The second will continue SFARI-supported efforts to characterize the full range of functional variation in genes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, again with an eye toward informing translational efforts. And the third area will focus on the development of genetically based therapies for select forms of ASD. We also encourage applicants to familiarize themselves with resources that SFARI supports that may accelerate projects, such as our resource of iPS cells, mouse, rat and zebrafish models.

Grants awarded under the 2021 version of this RFA, which had slightly different areas of emphasis, can be found here.

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

A group of recent preprints has established a new high-water mark for our understanding of the genetic basis of ASD and the ways in which rare de novo variation, rare inherited variation and common variation come together to explain the presentation of ASD in affected individuals1–7. In addition, initial studies have identified neurogenesis as one possible point of convergence for at least a subset of genetic risk factors (see here for a summary). Although these studies constitute important progress, a deeper understanding of how different classes of genetic susceptibility and different ASD risk genes converge on overlapping biological networks remains an important goal for the field.

To address this gap in knowledge, this focus area will prioritize integrative analyses that leverage available genomic data on tens of thousands of individuals with ASD, including 70,487 exomes (34,164 with ASD) and 11,628 genomes (3,199 with ASD) from SPARK, as well as many other available genome-wide multi-omic datasets.

A specific goal is to better understand how ASD-associated alleles perturb the regulation of DNA accessibility, transcription factor binding, mRNA splicing and protein-protein interactions, ultimately leading to convergent changes in signaling pathways in critical cell types at critical developmental stages. 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 factors (some of which are high-confidence ASD risk genes), among many other resources.

We are also eager to receive applications that address areas that were underrepresented in the previous iteration of this RFA, including assessments of the ASD proteome, the contribution of inherited genetic variation to ASD-associated biology and the possible contribution of mitochondrial genetic variation and biology. A summary of a recent SFARI workshop on mitochondria and ASD can be found here, which highlighted, among many other issues, the need to evaluate mitochondrial function in cellular and animal models carrying ASD-associated risk variants.

Focus Area 2: Functional Analysis of Associated Variants

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 autism cohort for which high-quality exome and/or genome sequences are available. 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 that are complementary to previous SFARI awards in this area will also be of particular interest.

Focus Area 3: Genetic Therapies

We invite proposals to develop gene-targeted therapies for severe neurodevelopmental conditions caused by mutations in high confidence autism risk genes. To that effect SFARI has prioritized a list of approximately 50 genes from the SPARK gene list as strong candidates for the development of translational programs. However, applications targeting other genes from the SPARK gene list will not be excluded a priori. Successful applications will provide convincing justification for the genes or mutational mechanisms prioritized for study. Therefore, we encourage applicants to reference the criteria applied to select the list of 50 prioritized genes (“Gene Selection Criteria” tab) for guidance on gene selection.

We expect that proposals will include molecular, cellular and/or animal model studies of the target gene(s) that will lead to the identification or validation of phenotypes which are suited to test the efficacy of the proposed targeted interventions. It will be of advantage to have at least preliminary data showing the existence of suitable phenotypes.

As individual genes may be candidates for diverse gene-targeting technologies, it is difficult to predict which approach will be best suited for translation. Therefore, we encourage collaborative applications around individual genes. For such projects, each collaborating lab may focus on the development or use of a different technology, but labs will share resources (e.g., mouse models) and data (e.g., cellular, molecular, behavioral phenotypes) suited to address phenotype reversal.

Please familiarize yourself with SFARI’s current portfolio on gene targeting therapies and consider how your work may be able to complement or expand ongoing work.

Available Resources

SFARI has established multiple resources that may be helpful to studies proposed in response to this RFA that can be requested by application to SFARI Base:

Data:

  • Both genomic and phenotypic data are available for more than 50,000 individuals participating in SFARI cohorts (SSC, SPARK and Searchlight) with about 50,000 whole-exome and about 15,000 whole-genome sequences.

Biospecimens:

Level and Duration of Funding

To enhance support of projects all along the continuum of translation, SFARI now offers three tracks within this RFA solicitation: Explorer, Expansion and Collaboration. Applicants should select the track that best matches the maturity and goals of their research proposal, as review criteria will be appropriately tailored for each track. We encourage investigators to take advantage of the flexibility in budget and duration, tailoring the scope of the award as appropriate for their specific aims.

Funds are expected to be expended as requested during each annual budget period.

Explorer track

This track is appropriate for early-stage projects in which establishing feasibility and proof-of-concept are the most relevant outcomes of the grant period. The total budget is $400,000 or less, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to two (2) years. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the $400,000 total budget threshold (see grant policies).

Expansion track

This track is appropriate for more mature projects with evidence of feasibility and preliminary validity. The total budget is $1,500,000 or less, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to three (3) years. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the $1,500,000 total budget threshold (see grant policies).

Collaboration track

This track is appropriate for multi-lab collaborative projects. Collaborative proposals should be built around transdisciplinary teams that link analyses across different levels of biological complexity — from gene to cells to networks to circuits. Ideally experimental modalities used by collaborating labs are complementary. In addition, we encourage cross-species model comparisons (i.e., human organoid and mouse). The total budget per collaborating lab is $750,000 or less, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to three (3) years. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the $750,000 total budget threshold (see grant policies). We welcome applications from up to four collaborating principal investigators (PIs).

As with all SFARI-funded projects, it is at the foundation’s discretion to modify final budgets and scientific scope as needed. Grant progress will be critically evaluated at the end of each annual funding period before support for the upcoming year will be approved.

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.

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.

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 “Genomics: Pathways to Biological Convergence and Genetic Therapies.” 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 FAQs.

Informational Sessions for Potential Applicants

To answer questions about this RFA, SFARI will hold an informational Zoom meeting on July 5, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. EDT. 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. Fu J.M. et al. medRxiv (2021) Preprint
  2. Wang T. et al. bioRxiv (2021) Preprint
  3. Zhou X. et al. medRxiv (2021) Preprint
  4. Trost B. et al. medRxiv (2022) Preprint
  5. Antaki D. et al. Nat. Genet. Epub ahead of print (2022) PubMed
  6. Rolland T. et al. medRxiv (2021) Preprint
  7. Warrier V. et al. Nat. Genet. Epub ahead of print (2022) PubMed
  8. Rolland T. et al. medRxiv (2021) Preprint
  9. Warrier V. et al. medRxiv (2020) Preprint
Read More
Maximum Budget

Explorer Track
$400,000 over a period of up to two (2) years
Expansion Track
$1,500,000 over a period of up to three (3) years
Collaboration Track
$750,000 per lab over a period of up to three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • RFA Informational Session
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
    December 2022
  • Award Start Dates
    March/April 2023
Contact Info

The submission deadline is Thursday, August 18, 2022, 5:00 PM 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 “Need an account?” under the “Applicant” 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 the “Applicant or Awardee” 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 – 2022 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and 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 requested budget track: Explorer, Expansion or Collaboration:
      1. Explorer track: The total budget is $400,000 or less over a period of up to two (2) years.
      2. Expansion track: The total budget is $1,500,000 or less over a period of up to three (3) years.
      3. Collaboration track: The total budget is $750,000 or less per lab over a period of up to three (3) years; up to four (4) collaborating labs are accepted.
    3. Indicate use of Simons Collections biospecimens, data or patient recruitment
  2. Download Templates & Instructions: The following templates are available for download:
    1. 2022 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and Genetic Therapies – RFA Announcement
    2. 2022 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and Genetic Therapies – RFA Application Instructions
    3. Simons Foundation Policies and Procedures
    4. Methodological and Statistical Considerations for SFARI Grant Proposals
    5. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Models of Autism: Experimental Design Considerations
    6. 2022 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and Genetic Therapies – RFA Specific Aims Page Template
    7. 2022 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and Genetic Therapies – RFA Proposal Narrative Template
    8. Human Participants Study Information Sheet
    9. Investigational Compound Information Sheet
    10. Statement of Changes Template (for resubmissions only)
    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 (if applicable to project)
    17. Progress Report Template (for investigators currently receiving SFARI funding only)
  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 2022 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and Genetic Therapies Awards will be announced in December 2022, and funding will begin on March 1, 2023, or April 1, 2023. 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 (IDC): 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 [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.
      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. Budget: Applicants must choose either the Explorer, Expansion or Collaboration track (see title page instructions above). All budgets are inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs.
      1. Explorer track budget: The total budget is $400,000 or less, over a period of up to two (2) years.
      2. Expansion track budget: The total budget is $1,500,000 or less, over a period of up to three (3) years.
      3. Collaboration track budget: The total budget is $750,000 or less per lab over a period of up to three (3) years; up to four (4) collaborating labs are accepted.
    7. Multiple PIs and Collaborations:
      1. For projects on the collaboration track, each collaborating lab is expected to be led by a PI who will contribute to the governance and direction of the project, scientifically and logistically. The applicant PI will be the designated contact PI for the project. The contact PI will be responsible for the ultimate direction of the project and will act as the main point of contact for the foundation by coordinating all administrative deliverables with collaborating labs.
      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.
    8. 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.
  9. 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)
  10. Budget Summary: The “Budget Summary” will populate from the saved “Budget Period Detail” section.
  11. 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.
  12. 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, description of preliminary data and experimental approach, and impact on autism research.
    2. Proposal Narrative: The Proposal Narrative should not exceed five (5) pages for Explorer and Expansion awards, and eight (8) pages for Collaboration awards, of single-spaced, size 11 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

      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 or a preprint server. Figures are limited to ten (10), each fitting on a single page. Please attach them at the end of the five-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.
  13. 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.
  14. Validate: You must click the “Validate” button below 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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 for Explorer and Expansion tracks, or the eight (8)-page limit for Collaboration tracks, 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.

Read More
Maximum Budget

Explorer Track
$400,000 over a period of up to two (2) years
Expansion Track
$1,500,000 over a period of up to three (3) years
Collaboration Track
$750,000 per lab over a period of up to three (3) years

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • RFA Informational Session
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
    December 2022
  • Award Start Dates
    March/April 2023
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 2022 Genomics of ASD: Pathways to Biological Convergence and 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. The PI 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. The PI acts 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.

      For projects on the collaboration track, each collaborating lab is expected to be led by a PI who will contribute to the governance and direction of the project, scientifically and logistically. The applicant PI will be the designated contact PI for the project. The contact PI will be responsible for the ultimate direction of the project and will act as the main point of contact for the foundation by coordinating all administrative deliverables with collaborating labs.

      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-contact PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        • The direct costs for all non-contact 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:

      • June 21, 2022: RFA opens
      • July 5, 2022: virtual information session (Zoom)
      • August 18, 2022: full application submission deadline, 5 p.m. EDT
      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/ click “Need an Account?” and start filling 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 for Explorer and Expansion awards, and eight (8) pages for Collaboration awards, of single-spaced, size 11-point text with 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):

      • Datasets to be used (including SFARI resources e.g., SPARK/SSC WES, WGS) and their availability
      • Biospecimens and controls to be used (including SFARI resources e.g., lymphoblastoid cell lines or induced pluripotent stem cell lines) and their availability
      • Animal model strains/lines and their availability
      • A brief statement of statistical power
      • Investigators should refer to the Methodological and Statistical Considerations Sheet for further information and 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 or preprint server. 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
      I see there are three budget tracks available. How do the tracks differ and what are their respective budget limits? plus--large

      Applicants should select which track best matches the maturity and goals of their research proposal, as review criteria will be appropriately tailored for each track.

      Explorer track

      This track is appropriate for early-stage projects in which establishing feasibility and proof-of-concept are the most relevant outcomes of the grant period. The total budget is $400,000 or less, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to two (2) years. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the $400,000 total budget threshold (see grant policies).

      Expansion track

      This track is appropriate for more mature projects with evidence of feasibility and preliminary validity, for which goals such as scalability and generalizability and/or ecological validity are now the most relevant translational outcomes. The total budget is $1,500,000 or less, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to three (3) years. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the $1,500,000 total budget threshold (see grant policies).

      Collaboration track

      This track is appropriate for multi-lab collaborative projects. Collaborative proposals should be built around transdisciplinary teams that link analyses across different levels of biological complexity — from gene to cells to networks to circuits. Ideally experimental modalities applied by collaborating labs are complementary. In addition, we encourage cross-species model comparisons (i.e., human organoid and mouse). The total budget per collaborating lab is $750,000 or less, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to three (3) years. Allowable indirect costs to the primary institution for subcontracts are not included in the $750,000 total budget threshold (see grant policies). We welcome applications from up to four collaborating principal investigators (PIs).

      How do I indicate my selected budget track on my application?plus--large

      In section 1, “Title Page,” applicants will select whether they are applying to the Explorer, Expansion or Collaboration track.

      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 for the Explorer track is $400,000 or less over two years; the Expansion track is $1,500,000 or less over three years; and the Collaboration track is $750,000 per lab over three years, with up to four labs welcome. All of these totals are inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs. 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 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 SFARI Base. Information on ABN tissue and data are available in the Autism BrainNet tissue catalogue.

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