2019 Research Award – Request for Applications

Grants awarded through this RFA are intended to provide support for the investigation of key unresolved research questions in autism, particularly those that connect etiology to brain function and behavior. Unlike SFARI Pilot Awards, risk and novelty are welcome but are not required criteria for the proposal to be considered meritorious. Competitive applications will have preliminary data or other relevant groundwork that justifies substantial investment on the proposed topic.

The maximum budget is $1,300,000, including indirect costs, over a period of up to four years.

Application Deadline
Maximum Budget

Over Four Years $1,300,000

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Funding Start Dates
    June 1, 2019; July 1, 2019; or August 1, 2019
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.

To this end, we solicit applications for SFARI Research Awards from individuals who will conduct bold and rigorous research.

Objectives and Areas of Focus

The goal of the Research Award is to provide support for investigation of key unresolved research questions in autism, particularly those that connect genetic etiologies to brain function and behavior. Unlike the SFARI Pilot Award, the Research Award welcomes risk and novelty, but these are not required criteria for a proposal to be considered meritorious. Competitive applications will have preliminary data or other relevant groundwork that justifies substantial investment in the proposed topic. In some cases, projects may include those focusing on a central hypothesis where success depends on close collaboration between two or more labs.

While SFARI remains open to persuasive arguments for the relevance of any particular project, below are a few examples of the types of research questions that address SFARI’s overarching goal:

  • Biological convergence: Given the ever-growing list of genetic risk factors for ASD, it will be important to explore whether biological convergence occurs at the molecular, cellular, circuit or behavioral level. When convergence is observed, how do we separate pathophysiology from epiphenomena?
  • Developmentally sensitive periods: What are the critical time points, and do they differ by biological mechanism or genetic etiology? How do we separate cause from consequence and home in on the best windows for intervention?
  • Major hypotheses: Examples include excitatory-inhibitory neural imbalance1; dysregulation of the innate immune system2; or etiological roles for sensory dysfunction in the development of social phenotypes in autism3, 4. Additionally, a project might address possible causative roles of certain cell types or brain areas, such as the mid-fetal glutamatergic cortical neurons5, 6 or the striatum7, which may offer mechanistic insight into classic postmortem studies of altered cortical patterning and neuronal number8.
  • Additional important questions: These include projects to explain the sex bias in autism prevalence9, to understand how differences in the genetics of ASD in the presence or absence of intellectual disability impact observed differences in biology and behavior10, 11, or to understand the possible therapeutic role of fever in autism symptomatology12.

The above-mentioned topics are neither exhaustive nor exclusionary but are illustrative of key research issues in autism that may be appropriate for investigation through a Research Award. For additional information, see SFARI’s scientific perspectives and a summary of SFARI’s recent changes in grant award mechanisms. We strongly advise applicants to familiarize themselves with SFARI’s currently funded projects and resources in order to think about how a proposal might complement other efforts already receiving funding.

Budget and Grant Duration

The maximum budget of a Research Award is $1,300,000, including 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of up to four (4) years. We encourage investigators to take advantage of the flexibility in budget and duration to tailor the scope of the award as appropriate for their specific aims. For projects that propose four years of research, progress will be critically evaluated at the end of year two before support for the remaining two years will be approved.

As with all SFARI funding, proposed budgets will be assessed on the appropriateness for the scope of work and merit of commitment. Larger budgets invite heightened scrutiny and will raise the bar for funding. Overlap of the proposed project with funding from other sources should be avoided and, if unavoidable, must be carefully explained and justified. Moreover, an investigator’s track record of scientific accomplishment will be especially relevant to our decisions on Research Awards.

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. 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, and units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government. There are no citizenship or country requirements.

Current recipients of SFARI Research Awards may apply for new funding, but please note that we generally prioritize new grant applications and provide only limited renewal funding, especially for projects considered to be appropriate for National Institutes of Health R01 award funding. To be considered competitive for a SFARI renewal, projects should demonstrate substantial progress on the original award; focus on a topic of continued high importance for SFARI; and be deemed unlikely to obtain funding from the NIH or other organizations.

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 SFARI Research Award program. For assistance, please call 800-875-2562 or email pcsupport@altum.com.

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

References

  1. Rubenstein J.L. and Merzenich M.M. Genes Brain Behav. 2, 255-267 (2003) PubMed
  2. Patterson P.H. Behav. Brain Res. 204, 313-321 (2009) PubMed
  3. Cascio C.J. J. Neurodev. Disord. 2, 62-69 (2010) PubMed
  4. Orefice L.L. et al. Cell 166, 299-313 (2016) PubMed
  5. Willsey A.J. et al. Cell 155, 997-1007 (2013) PubMed
  6. Parikshak N.N. et al. Cell 155, 1008-1021 (2013) PubMed
  7. Rothwell P.E. et al. Cell 158, 198-212 (2014) PubMed
  8. Courchesne E. et al. Mol. Psychiatry (2018) Epub ahead of print PubMed
  9. Werling D.M. and Geschwind D.H. Curr. Opin. Neurol. 26, 146-153 (2013) PubMed
  10. Weiner D.J. et al. Nat. Genet. 49, 978-985 (2017) PubMed
  11. Grove J. et al. bioRxiv (2017) Preprint
  12. Curran L.K. et al. Pediatrics 120, e1386-1392 (2007) PubMed
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proposalCENTRAL Logo

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

Maximum Budget

Over Four Years $1,300,000

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Funding Start Dates
    June 1, 2019; July 1, 2019; or August 1, 2019
Contact Info

The submission deadline is Friday, January 11, 2019, 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 “Create One Now!” under “Application Login.” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to pC’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy and then click “Save.” For the next steps, see the If You Have an Existing Account in pC section below.

If You Have an Existing Account in pC
For all users with a pC account, log in under “Application Login” at proposalCENTRAL and select “Create New Proposal” or click on the “Grant Opportunities” tab. Scroll down to “Simons Foundation” and then click “Apply Now” for the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative-Research Award 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 use of Simons Collections biospecimens, data, or patient recruitment
    3. Select a primary category. Please note a secondary category is not required.
  2. Download Templates & Instructions: The following templates are available for download:
    1. Research RFA Application Instructions
    2. SFARI Policies
    3. Research RFA Announcement
    4. Methodological and statistical considerations for SFARI grant proposals
    5. Induced pluripotent stem cell models of autism: Experimental design considerations
    6. Research RFA Specific Aims Page Template
    7. Research RFA Proposal Narrative Template
    8. Human Participants Study Information Sheet
    9. Chemical and Compound Information Sheet
    10. Key Personnel Biosketch
    11. Budget Justification
    12. Current and Pending Support
    13. Resources and Research Environment
    14. Renewable Reagents and Data Sharing Plan
    15. Detailed Budget for Subcontract
  3. Enable Other Users to Access This Proposal: Complete this section to give administrators or collaborators access and to allow other users to submit the application on your behalf.
  4. Applicant/PI: The principal investigator (PI) should be listed here. For grants with multiple PIs, the contact PI should be listed here.
  5. Organization/Institution: Enter the lead institution. Contact information for the signing official and financial/fiscal officer from your institution is required; select the correct person or enter new names in this section.
  6. Key Personnel: Indicate key personnel, including but not limited to: principal investigators (not including the contact PI), co-investigators, consultants, postdoctoral research associates and others. In rare circumstances, the applicant organization may designate multiple individuals as PIs who share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically. For more information on the responsibilities of PIs, please refer to the relevant questions in the Pilot and Research Award RFA FAQ.
  7. Abstract Enter as text in this section.
  8. Budget Period Detail: The following information is required for the “Budget Period Detail” section.
    1. Award start date: Proposals selected for funding as SFARI 2019 Research Awards will be announced in mid-April 2019, and funding will begin on June 1, 2019; July 1, 2019; or August 1, 2019. 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 SFARI 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 Variations in Individuals Project (Simons VIP)], 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 families from the SSC or Simons VIP research participants must complete and submit a Human Participants Study Information Sheet.
    6. Multiple PIs:
      1. Please note that the applicant PI will be the designated contact PI for the project. The contact PI will be responsible for directing the project and will act as the main point of contact for the foundation by coordinating all administrative deliverables.
      2. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who would like to be paid separately must upload in the “Proposal Attachments” section:
        1. Signed signature page for each PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        2. Budget template for each non-applicant PI (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections).
        3. Direct costs for all non-applicant PIs, which must be given in section 8 (“Budget Period Detail”) in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section. Indirect costs for all non-applicant PIs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each non-applicant PI.
      3. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution are considered subcontractors. Please refer to the instructions in the Subcontracts section below.
      4. Applications with multiple PIs from the same institution do not need to submit additional materials. Additional non-applicant PIs should be listed as key personnel in section 6 (“Key Personnel”) and in section 8 (“Budget Period Detail”), and only one signature page is needed.
      5. Please see the chart below for a detailed breakdown of multiple PI requirements.
    7. Subcontracts:
      1. Applications with subcontracts (including PIs who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution) must submit:
        1. Subcontract Detailed Budget (available for download in the “Proposal Attachments” and “Download Templates & Instructions” sections) for each subcontract.
        2. Direct costs for all subcontract PIs, which must be given in section 8 (“Budget Period Detail”) in the “Consortium & Contractual Direct” section. Indirect costs for all subcontract PIs should be included in the “Indirect Costs” section. Please add a separate line for both direct costs and indirect costs for each subcontract PI.
      2. Please see the chart below for a detailed breakdown of subcontract requirements.
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)
  1. Budget Summary: The “Budget Summary” will populate from the saved “Budget Period Detail” section.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 seven (7) 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
      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. 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. Human Participants Study Information Sheet: Required only for investigators proposing to conduct human participant research/clinical studies.
    4. Chemical and Compound Information Sheet: Required only for investigators proposing to use chemicals or pharmaceutical compounds in animal research.
    5. Biographical Sketches of Key Personnel
    6. Budget Justification
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Research Environment and Resources
    10. Renewable Reagents and Data-Sharing Plan
    11. Current and Pending Support: Please upload current and pending support for all PIs and key personnel.
    12. 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 SFARI policies.)
    13. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 7-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.

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Maximum Budget

Over Four Years $1,300,000

Important Dates
  • Application Available
  • Application Deadline
  • Award Notification
  • Funding Start Dates
    June 1, 2019; July 1, 2019; or August 1, 2019
Contact Info

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