SPARK

SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research) is an autism research initiative that aims to recruit, engage and retain a community of 50,000 individuals with autism and their family members living in the U.S.

Participation in this cohort involves the contribution of medical and behavioral information, mailing in saliva for genetic analysis, the potential option to have genetic findings related to autism returned, and the option to be recontacted to participate in future research studies. This community of engaged participants will provide researchers with an efficient way to invite individuals to participate in their research.

This research project is centrally coordinated by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) and includes collaboration with 31 university-affiliated research clinics in 26 states across the U.S. SFARI launched a pilot phase of the project in December 2015 with three clinical sites. An additional 18 sites began recruiting individuals with autism and their families in April 2016, 4 more sites began in April 2017 and the remaining sites in March 2019.

In addition, numerous national and local autism community organizations across the U.S. are partnering with SFARI to help recruit participants and spread the word about this landmark study.

Researchers can request de-identified phenotypic and genetic data and submit an application to recruit SPARK participants into new autism research studies through SFARI Base. The SPARK Recruitment Process Document provides answers to many frequently asked questions.

Families who are interested in learning more about SPARK or in participating can visit SPARKforAutism.org.

SPARK data

Phenotypic Data

Phenotypic data from 328,973 individuals (including more than 100,000 individuals with ASD) are currently available to approved researchers via SFARI Base. These individuals include:

  • Total number of individuals: 328,973
  • Total number of female probands: 34,874
  • Total number of adults with ASD: 22,811
  • Total number of children under 18 with ASD: 109,161
  • Total number of male probands: 97,264
  • Total number of unaffected siblings: 49,674
  • Total number of enrolled twins, triplets, and quadruplets: 8,092
  • Total number of multiplex families: 20,686
  • Total number of ASD particpants with unknown age: 166

A summary of the phenotypic data that is available for these participants can be accessed here.

A summary of the demographic and clinical information for these participants is available here.

Genomic Data

Genomic data is available for 116,693 SPARK participants, specifically 106,744 (including 44,304 with ASD) with whole exome sequencing and 12,519 (including 3,575 with ASD) with whole genome sequencing. A total of 2,570 individuals have both. These data are available to approved researchers via SFARI Base.

There will be a publication embargo for 6 months after all genomic data is released that will prohibit submission of manuscripts for publication.

Results from a pilot study ‬that genetically characterized 457 families enrolled in SPARK is available here:‬

  • Feliciano P. et al. npj Genom. Med. 4, 19 (2019) PubMed

Clinical sites

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