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SFARI 2016 Explorer awardees announced

13 January 2017

G. Aneesh Arimbasseri and Dilara Sen (Albert Keung Laboratory)/North Carolina State University

Minibrain: Image of an immunostained whole-brain organoid derived from human embryonic stem cells.

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it has awarded 14 grants in response to the Explorer Awards request for applications (RFA) over the past year.

These grants will support exploratory experiments that aim to strengthen hypotheses and lead to the formulation of competitive applications for subsequent larger-scale funding by SFARI or other organizations. SFARI will provide close to $1 million in funding to 14 investigators as part of this award program.

“The Explorer Award program is an important component of SFARI’s grants portfolio,” says SFARI Director Louis Reichardt. “It provides researchers with an opportunity to obtain funding for ideas that are often too preliminary or too high-risk for consideration by other grant programs. It also supports SFARI’s goal of encouraging talented investigators from other fields to apply their skills and expertise to autism.”

Awardee Michael Graziano, associate professor of psychology at Princeton University, adds: “The SFARI Explorer Award has given my lab the resources to explore our ideas relating to network connectivity in the brains of individuals with autism. We’re excited to get this project underway and look forward to seeing whether the findings from these studies support our initial hypotheses.”

SFARI has funded 104 Explorer Awards since the inception of this program in 2011. Applications for Explorer Awards are accepted on a rolling basis and funding decisions are made within one to two months by SFARI staff. Researchers interested in applying for an Explorer Award can find more information here.

A complete list of the 2016 Explorer Awards is shown below:

Mark Blumberg, Ph.D. (University of Iowa)
Neurodevelopmental assessment of motor behavior in a mouse model of autism

Simon Chen, Ph.D. (University of Ottawa)
Dissecting inhibitory microcircuits during learning in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome

A. Ercument Cicek, Ph.D. (Bilkent University)
Spatio-temporal gene discovery for autism spectrum disorder

Britta Eickholt, Ph.D. (Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin)
Convergent signaling pathways linking PTEN and MeCP2, two risk genes for autism spectrum disorders

Michael Graziano, Ph.D. (Princeton University)
Gender and temporoparietal network interactions in autism

Yi-Ping Hsueh, Ph.D. (Academia Sinica)
Do toll-like receptor innate immune responses act via autism risk genes to alter neuronal morphology and function?

Albert Keung, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University)
Spatiotemporal dissection of UBE3A expression with engineered human cerebral organoids

Markita Landry, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley)
Synthetic infrared nanosensors for real-time monitoring of oxytocin release

David Pitcher, Ph.D. (University of York)
Measuring the size of face regions in females and males

Christopher Pittenger, M.D., Ph.D. (Yale University)
The role of striatal interneurons in social deficits and repetitive behaviors

Mani Ramaswami, Ph.D. (Trinity College Dublin)
Translational control by RBFOX1: Investigating its mechanisms and functions

Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, M.D., Ph.D. (Case Western Reserve University)
A novel transcriptional cascade involved in brain overgrowth in autism

Je-Hyun Yoon, Ph.D. (Medical University of South Carolina)
Analysis of SHANK3 ubiquitination regulation by RNF31 phosphorylation

R. Suzanne Zukin, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Genetic rescue of a mouse model of fragile X by targeted deletion of RICTOR