Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute (SFARI): Linking Early Neurodevelopment to Neural Circuit Outcomes

The mission of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.

The Linking Early Neurodevelopment to Neural Circuit Outcomes RFA will support research that aims to directly connect neurodevelopmental changes to ASD-relevant circuit phenotypes in order to advance our understanding of how ASD risk genes contribute to the neurobiology of autism. We invite proposals that will elucidate the impact of well-defined developmental alterations on the structure, function and/or output of neural circuits relevant to ASD phenotypes. To this end, experimental endpoints need not be behavioral readouts, but should be phenotypes that would reasonably be expected to drive alterations in function at the organism level (e.g., changes in synaptic connectivity or plasticity, or altered local or mesoscale neural dynamics and/or coding, ideally assessed with cell-type specificity).

To facilitate rigorous assessments of causality, SFARI imagines that successful applications will connect phenotypes at adjacent biological scales (e.g., from neuronal migration defect to aberrant connectivity or from aberrant connectivity to altered neural dynamics), linking across as many levels of analysis as possible within the time and budget provided by the grant. Because the goal of this RFA is to establish causal links between temporally distant phenotypes, the foundation encourages dense and/or longitudinal sampling whenever appropriate, in order to rigorously characterize the relative timing and stability of the phenotypes of interest.

Competitive applications will provide strong evidence in support of the chosen phenotypic starting point(s) in the form of published or high-quality preliminary data, as well as a statement of the direct relevance of the proposed work to ASD.

Applicants may request up to $300,000 per lab with a maximum total annual budget of $900,000, inclusive of 20 percent indirect costs, over a period of three (3) to four (4) years. To allow potential applicants sufficient time to identify appropriate collaborators and conceptualize their projects, we are publishing this RFA call now; we will begin accepting applications on June 11, 2024.

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.