2019 SPARK Clinical Site Network Request for Applications

SPARK is a SFARI initiative intended to recruit, engage and retain a community of 50,000 individuals with autism, and their family members, in the United States. This research cohort includes children and adults who span the full autism spectrum and individuals of all socio-demographic backgrounds.

Through this RFA, SFARI will add additional clinical sites to its existing clinical site network for the purposes of recruiting SPARK participants. Selected clinical sites will receive funding of up to $200,000/year, including indirect costs, for a maximum of three years.

Maximum Budget

$200,000 per year

Important Dates
  • Application deadline
  • Notification date
  • Start date
Contact Info

Background and Rationale

The overall goal of SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge) is to recruit, engage and retain a research community of at least 50,000 individuals in the United States with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), along with their family members. The SPARK research cohort includes children and adults with ASD who span the full spectrum of autism and represent all socio-economic backgrounds. Since its national launch in April 2016, SPARK has recruited over 130,000 participants. This includes over 50,000 individuals with ASD, of whom close to 13,000 have enrolled and provided saliva samples their biological parents and, if applicable, an unaffected sibling.

SPARK participants contribute medical and behavioral information online, collect and mail in saliva samples for DNA analysis, and have the opportunity to participate in additional research studies through the study’s research match program. Individuals who enroll in SPARK will receive up to $50 in gift cards, have access to both aggregate and individual behavioral results from their participation, and can elect to receive genetic results should a genetic cause of their autism be identified. SPARK also publishes timely articles on the latest in autism research and hosts monthly interactive webinars or Facebook live events. Additional information about the program can be found on the SPARK website.

SPARK recruits participants using a range of outreach methods, including clinical sites, digital and traditional media, and partnerships with national advocacy organizations. The primary source of participants is our network of 25 clinical sites throughout the United States (information about the principal investigators at each of these sites is available here). Data from each site’s participants are shared with the site to enrich its local research efforts or research registry. Clinical site investigators are also given expedited access to SPARK participants via the research match program.

SPARK is an initiative of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). SFARI’s goals include supporting research that will lead to better ways to treat and improve the lives of individuals with ASD. Additional SFARI goals include developing more reliable quantitative, objective outcome measures for ASD clinical trials; developing biomarkers to stratify ASD individuals and demonstrate efficacy of treatments; and forming partnerships with individuals with ASD and clinical providers to promote ASD research.

Scope of RFA

SFARI will support additional U.S.-based clinical sites for the purpose of recruiting individuals with ASD and their family members to participate in SPARK. Support to a clinical site will include the following allowable costs:

  • Principal investigator (PI) salary — up to 10 percent effort for a PI or PI(s);
  • Site coordinator(s) salary — up to two full-time coordinators or the equivalent;
  • Funds for conducting community outreach in catchment area (excludes direct payment to participants);
  • Funds for recruitment and retention materials and supplies, such as tablets to assist families with online registration.
  • If applicable, funds to support return of genetic and behavioral results.

Selected sites will receive funding on an annual basis (see below for renewal details). The maximum amount of funding awarded per year is $200,000 including 20 percent indirect costs (see Simons Foundation policies). Sites will be required to submit biannual progress reports to help determine eligibility for renewal. Annual renewal of funding is based on the site’s performance in meeting recruitment targets. The award start date is March 1, 2019, and sites will be expected to begin enrollment (operating near or at full recruitment capacity) no later than May 1, 2019.

Specific Work to be Accomplished

Selected sites will be responsible for the following:

Recruitment Planning:

  • Obtain local IRB approval to cede oversight to a centralized IRB. If your IRB is unable to cede oversight to a central IRB, your site cannot participate in SPARK. SPARK’s central IRB is Western IRB (WIRB). Additionally, local IRBs are expected to accept standard Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) language in the centralized consent for bidirectional sharing of participant information.
  • Develop a recruitment strategy in alignment with central IRB protocol, which must include identifying existing research cohorts available for recontact, local patient databases with email/phone contacts, and community partners working with individuals with ASD and their family members.

Outreach and Recruitment:

  • Conduct in-person recruitment of eligible individuals with ASD and their family members, including completion of online enrollment and submission of saliva samples.
  • Facilitate remote enrollment and submission of saliva samples of individuals with ASD and their family members.
  • Recruit individuals with ASD and their family members by contacting local research participants and patients who have agreed to be recontacted for future research opportunities.
  • Enhance recruitment by presenting at local events, hosting a booth at a walk, etc.
  • Follow up with participants to facilitate their completion of new survey modules or participation in research match studies of interest.

Return of Results:

  • Follow up with participants to support return of genetic or behavioral results if needed and facilitate participation in research for gene-specific research.

Data Entry:

  • Local IRBs are expected to accept standard HIPAA language in the centralized consent for bidirectional sharing of participant information.
  • Abstract and enter assessment scores from participant medical records and/or transfer data from a local database into the study portal.
  • Upload medical records of enrolled participants into the study portal.
  • Assist with data quality inquiries (for example, confirming family information).

Tracking Progress Over Time:

  • Track the number of individuals with ASD and family members recruited per month.
  • Participate in monthly site coordinator conference calls to share information about recruitment efforts and receive updates on overall project status

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 institute. Applications may be submitted by domestic 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 national residence requirements for applicants. If the proposal includes investigators at more than one site, all investigators should have demonstrated prior success in similar collaborations. 

Important Deadlines

Application deadline                                     November 30, 2018

Notification date                                           January 11, 2019

Start date                                                      March 1, 2019

SPARK will hold an informational conference call on Friday, November 2, 2018. Please email Alex Stephens at astephens@simonsfoundation.org if you are interested in participating.

Instructions for Submission

The deadline for receipt of applications is November 30, 2018. 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 “SPARK Clinical Site Network Request for Applications.”

The following components must be included in the application (for more details, see the Instructions document, available for download in the Download Templates and Instructions section of proposalCENTRAL):

  1. Completed Application form:
    1. Patient population and enrollment estimates across catchment area
    2. Waiver ceding IRB oversight to central IRB.
    3. Recruitment objectives
    4. Site experience
    5. Other site capabilities
  2. Recruitment plan: Description of how site plans to recruit participants and partner with local organizations for outreach/recruitment (one page).
  3. Activity timeline: Month-to-month description of activities with clear start and end dates (one page).
  4. Budget: Should include cost estimates for components listed above; budgets are limited to up to $200,000 per year for up to three years, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs.
  5. Budget justification (one page).
  6. Biographical sketch of PI, site coordinator(s) and all clinical staff who will be supported by the award.
  7. Research environment and resources: Investigators should demonstrate access to appropriate resources for accessing clinical data.
  8. Signed signature page.
  9. Optional: Letters of support from community organizations (up to three).
  10. Optional: Additional documents for multiple PIs and/or subcontracts:
    1. Budget for additional PI (only if additional PI will be paid separately).
    2. Signed signature page from additional PI’s institution (only if additional PI will be paid separately).
    3. Subcontract budget template.
    4. Subcontract budget justification.

Evaluation Process

SFARI will evaluate proposals based on information provided in the application and associated documents. External reviewers will most likely not be used. SFARI scientific staff will make final funding decisions, and notification of award is expected by January 11, 2019. Preferred applicant sites will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Extensive history of participating in/leading research studies of individuals with ASD.
  • Proven track record of successful recruitment for large-scale research projects.
  • Extensive history of providing clinical care to individuals with ASD.
  • Large number of individuals with ASD seen per year.
  • Large number of individuals with ASD available for re-contact.
  • Large catchment population.
  • Diverse catchment population.

Funded clinical sites will be expected to recruit at least 200 complete families (defined as an individual with ASD and his/her biological parents who have completed online enrollment and submitted saliva samples) per year. Additionally, preference will be given to applicant sites from cities or regions that do not already have a SPARK clinical site.

The aforementioned criteria are by no means exhaustive.

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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

$200,000 per year

Important Dates
  • Application deadline
  • Notification date
  • Start date
Contact Info

The deadline for application submission is Friday, November 30, 2018, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

proposalCENTRAL Login Information
Applications must be submitted via proposalCENTRAL (pC). To start an application in pC, users must first login 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 “Need an account?” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to pC’s terms of service and acceptable use policy, and click “Save.”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 click “Apply Now” for the “SPARK Clinical Site Network Request for Applications” 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 a full application, you must complete the following proposalCENTRAL sections:

  1. Title Page: Enter the proposal title in this section. 
  2. Download Templates and Instructions: Templates can be found under Templates and Instructions or Proposal Attachments.
  3. Enable Other Users to Access This Proposal: This module allows you to give other users access to your grant application. You can give them one of three levels of permission: view, edit or administrator.
  4. Applicant/PI: The principal investigator (PI) should be listed here. While someone other than the PI can submit the application, this section must be filled in for the intended PI on the project. For grants with multiple PIs, the contact PI should be listed here.
  5. Organization/Institution: Enter the contact information for the signing official and the financial/fiscal officer from your institution. Select from the menu or enter new names.
  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 and directing the project, intellectually and logistically. For more information on the responsibilities of PIs or co-investigators, please refer to the personnel definitions in the Clinical Site Network RFA FAQ.
  7. Budget Period Detail: Enter your budget period detail in this section.
    1. Award start date: Proposals selected for funding will be announced by January 11, 2019, and funding will begin on March 1, 2019.
    2. Indirect costs (IDCs): IDCs are limited to 20 percent of direct costs. The following items may not be claimed as indirect costs: equipment, tuition, 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. While IDCs on most equipment are not allowable, IDCs on small equipment (costing up to $10,000) are permissible.
    3. 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.
    4. Budget: Please complete a budget for years 1–3 on the individual budget tabs provided in the online application. Budgets should not exceed $200,000 per year, which includes 20 percent indirect costs.
    5. Multiple PIs:
      1. SFARI discourages applications with multiple sites, multiple PIs and/or subcontracts for this RFA. Applications from multiple sites, multiple PIs and/or subcontracts will be considered under rare circumstances.
      2. 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.
        1. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who would like to be paid separately must upload in the Proposal Attachments section:
        2. Signed signature page for each PI (available for download in the Proposal Attachments and Download Templates and Instructions sections).
        3. Budget Template & justification for each non-applicant PI (available for download in the Proposal Attachments and Download Templates and Instructions sections).
        4. The direct costs for all non-applicant PIs, which must be included in section 7 (Budget Period Detail) in the Consortium & Contractual Direct section, and indirect costs for all non-applicant PIs, which should be included in the Indirect Costs section. Please add a separate line for direct costs and one for 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 subcontracts. Please refer to the subcontract instructions in section 7f 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 section 7 (Budget Period Detail), and only one signature page is needed.
    6. Subcontracts:
      Applications with subcontracts (including PIs who will be paid directly by the contact PI’s institution) must submit:

      1. Subcontract detailed budget & justification(available for download in the Proposal Attachments and Download Templates and Instructions sections) for each subcontract.
      2. Subcontract direct costs, which must be included in the Consortium & Contractual Direct section, and subcontract indirect costs, which should be included in the Indirect Costs section. Please add a separate line for direct costs and one for indirect costs for each subcontract.
  8. Budget Summary: The Budget Summary will populate from the saved detailed budget. 
  9. Proposal Attachments: The following documents are to be uploaded in this section, where they are also available for download:
    1. Completed application form, including:
      1. Patient population and enrollment estimates across catchment area.
      2. Waiver ceding IRB oversight to central IRB.
      3. Recruitment objectives.
      4. Site experience.
      5. Other site capabilities.
    2. Recruitment plan: Description of how site plans to recruit participants and partner with local organizations for outreach/recruitment (one page).
    3. Activity timeline: Month-to-month description of activities with clear start and end dates (one page).
    4. Budget: Should include cost estimates for components listed above; budgets are limited to up to $200,000 per year for up to three years, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs.
    5. Budget justification (one page).
    6. Biographical sketch of key personnel (PI, site coordinator and all clinical or research staff who will be supported by the award).
    7. Research environment and resources: Investigators should demonstrate access to appropriate resources for accessing clinical data.
    8. Signed signature page.
    9. Optional: Letters of support from community organizations (up to three).
    10. Optional: Additional documents for multiple PIs and/or subcontracts:
      1. Budget & justification for additional PI (only if additional PI will be paid separately).
      2. Signed signature page from additional PI’s institution (only if additional PI will be paid separately).
      3. Subcontract budget template.
      4. Subcontract budget justification.
  10. 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).
  11. Validate: You must click the “Validate” button to check for any missing required information or files. All missing required information will be listed on the screen. Please correct any missing information before proceeding to the next step.
  12. Signature page(s): The signed signature page is available for download in the Signature Page section and must be signed by the applicant and signing official, then re-uploaded in the Proposal Attachments section. Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who would like to be paid separately must submit a signed signature page for each PI institution.
  13. 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.
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Maximum Budget

$200,000 per year

Important Dates
  • Application deadline
  • Notification date
  • Start date
Contact Info
  • proposalCENTRAL Login Instructionsplus--large
      Where do I submit my application proposal?plus--large

      Applications are online and must be submitted online through proposalCENTRAL. New users first need to create a user account on proposalCENTRAL. For instructions on how to create a user account, please see question 2. For all users, log in and select “Create New Proposal” or click on the “Grant Opportunities” tab. Filter the Grant Maker by “Simons Foundation” and click on “Apply Now” next to the “SPARK Clinical Site Network Request for Applications.” Once all sections are complete and the attachments are uploaded, the “Submit” button will be activated.

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

      Go to proposalCENTRAL and click “Create One Now” under “Need an account?” Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to proposalCENTRAL’s terms of service and acceptable use policy, and then click “Save.”

  • Eligibilityplus--large
      Can postdoctoral associates apply as principal investigators (PIs)?plus--large

      No, postdoctoral associates may not apply as PIs. 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.

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

      SFARI strongly discourages applications with multiple sites and/or multiple PIs for the purpose of this RFA. Applications from multiple sites and multiple PIs will be considered under rare circumstances.

      If the proposal includes multiple PIs at more than one site, all investigators should have demonstrated prior success in similar collaborations. For projects that have multiple PIs at different institutions, applications must be submitted by the PI designated as the contact PI and his/her institution. 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, and must submit a biographical sketch.

      Applications with multiple PIs from different institutions who 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 and Instructions sections).
      • Budget template for each non-applicant PI (available for download in the Proposal Attachments and Download Templates and Instructions sections).
      • The direct costs for all non-applicant PIs, which must be included in section 7 (Budget Period Detail) in the Consortium & Contractual Direct section, and indirect costs for all non-applicant PIs, which should be included in the Indirect Costs section. Please add a separate line for direct costs and one for 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 & Justification (available for download in the Proposal Attachments and Download Templates and Instructions sections) for each subcontract.
      • Subcontract direct costs, which must be included in the Consortium & Contractual Direct section, and subcontract indirect costs, which should be included in the Indirect Costs section. Please add a separate line for direct costs and one for indirect costs for each subcontract. Only one signature page from the institution of the applicant PI 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 section 6 (Key Personnel) and in section 7 (Budget Period Detail), and only one signature page is needed. 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 coordinating all administrative deliverables.

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

      No, only domestic clinical sites may apply.

      Can for-profit companies apply for a grant?plus--large

      No, only nonprofit 501(c)(3) institutions are eligible for this RFA.

      How are applicants selected?plus--large

      Applicants will be selected based on the entirety of the application submitted according to the criteria described in the RFA. Notification of application status is expected by January 11, 2019.

  • Submission Instructionsplus--large
      Can I email or mail my application?plus--large

      No, all applications to the SPARK Clinical Site Network RFA must be submitted online through proposalCENTRAL, which will be open for applications beginning October 12, 2018.

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

      Yes, you can add users with administrator access to the proposalCENTRAL application so that someone other than the PI can edit and submit the application. To add another user, go to section 3, “Enable Other Users to Access This Proposal,” and complete the required fields.

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

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

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

      The “Validate” process 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.

      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 your application is complete and you are unable to submit it, please contact pcsupport@altum.com.

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

      You must contact the Simons Foundation to un-submit your full application before you can edit attachments or HTML sections. Please email sfgrants@simonsfoundation.org or call 646-654-0066 if you would like to un-submit your application prior to the November 30, 2018 deadline.

      Will I receive 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 of submitting your application. Make sure that your spam filters allow emails from pcsupport@altum.com.

  • Full Proposal Requirementsplus--large
      What can funds be used for? Are there any restrictions?plus--large

      Funds can be used to support the following:

      1. Site director salary — we will allow up to 10 percent effort for a PI or PI(s), but the total amount of funding requested, including indirect costs, must not exceed $200,000 per year.
      2. Site coordinator salary — a site may have up to two full-time coordinators or the equivalent.
      3. Outreach and recruitment activities (including, but not limited to, recruitment and retention materials and supplies, such as tablets to assist families with online registration, reimbursement for travel and food expenses at network events, and registration fees for information/recruitment booths at community walks and fairs).

      Note: Funds cannot be used for direct incentive payments to participants.

      What is required for a subcontract? Where do I access the subcontract budget and upload the completed budget?plus--large

      SFARI strongly discourages applications with multiple sites and/or subcontracts for the purpose of this RFA. Applications from multiple sites and subcontracts will be considered under rare circumstances.

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

      • Subcontract Detailed Budget & Justification (available for download in the Proposal Attachments and Download Templates and Instructions sections) for each subcontract.
      • Subcontract direct costs, which must be included in the Consortium & Contractual Direct section, and subcontract indirect costs, which should be included in the Indirect Costs section. Please add a separate line for direct costs and one for indirect costs for each subcontract.
      Does the Simons Foundation require letters of support or collaboration?plus--large

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

      Is there a minimum percent effort required for the principal investigators/site directors or co-investigators?plus--large

      There is no minimum percent effort required for the principal investigator, but there is a 10 percent paid effort cap.

      What are the font, font size and margin requirements?plus--large

      11-point legible font and 0.5-inch margins.

      Where do I enter additional key personnel and non-applicant PI(s)?plus--large

      You can save personnel details in the Key Personnel section.

      Should the applicant PI be listed under key personnel in the application on proposalCENTRAL?plus--large

      No. Please list only additional key personnel on the application (i.e., site coordinators, non-applicant PIs).

      Are references, figures and figure legends included in the application form limit? How should they be included?plus--large

      References and figures are not included in the page limit for the application form. Please attach them at the end of the application form in the same PDF file.

      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). Any other material should be included in the application form if possible. If you have video attachments for your proposal, please upload them as an appendix (all file types are accepted). All appendices should be uploaded in the Proposal Attachments section of the application.

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

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

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

      You must contact SFARI to un-submit your full application before you can edit attachments or HTML sections. Please email sfgrants@simonsfoundation.org or call 646-654-0066 if you would like to un-submit your application prior to the November 30, 2018 deadline.

SPARK

  • Awarded: 2016
  • Award Type: SPARK

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