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Mouse phenotyping RFA (closed)

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The RFA submission deadline has passed and applications are no longer being accepted.

SFARI mission

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

Request for applications

To maximize the ability to make direct comparisons among mouse models, this Request for Applications seeks applications for systematic, rigorous and scalable analyses of behavioral phenotypes across multiple mouse models. The data produced in this effort will be made available to the research community with minimum delay and thus will be a valuable resource for all researchers.

Mouse models of autism

SFARI has prioritized a small number of mouse models that have been generated with targeted genetic mutations based on strong human genetic evidence implicating them in autism spectrum disorders. These include mouse models of 16p11.2 chromosomal segment deletion1, CNTNAP2-/-2 and SHANK3B-/-3. Investigators are encouraged to use these models, but SFARI will consider others if compelling reasons based on human genetic data are specified in the application.

In recognition of other ongoing efforts in the research community, SFARI is working to increase availability of select mouse models at Jackson Laboratories. At present, mouse models of the deletion of the human chromosomal segment 16p11.2 and its reciprocal duplication1 are available, but SFARI plans to facilitate the availability of additional autism models over time. Investigators are encouraged to use this resource (CNTNAP2 and SHANK3B models will soon be available at Jackson), and to contact the foundation for information about availability of additional models.

To achieve the goals of a comprehensive and systematically collected dataset, we expect investigators will test at least three genetic models in the same background strain (C57BL/6). In addition, investigators should analyze the behavior of one of the selected autism mouse models in a different genetic background, such as a hybrid background from two inbred strains.

Behavioral phenotyping

Proposals should include: 1) sophisticated automation in data collection, 2) long-term monitoring of spontaneous behavior, 3) an analysis of both sexes, and 4) a minimum of three developmental time-points, particularly those during critical periods of brain development.

We anticipate that proposed behavioral tests may differ among applications because of the varying expertise and resources of the investigative teams, but all proposals should include plans to test:

  • Physical and neurological health, including sensory and motor function, and the presence of seizures or abnormal EEG
  • Arousal/regulatory systems
  • Social interaction and communication
  • Behavioral inflexibility and compulsion

Investigators may also include additional domains that address key comorbidities in autism, such as dysregulated attention and fear/anxiety.

If data collection will be performed at more than one site, investigators should have demonstrated prior success in reproducing results across sites.


All applicants and key collaborators must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree and have a faculty position or equivalent at a college, university, medical school or other research facility. Applications may be submitted by domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations; public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories, units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government. There are no citizenship or country requirements.

Application requirements

  1. Narrative, not exceeding six (6) pages (excluding references and figures). Proposals should include relevant preliminary data, detailed description of methods, rationale for proposed behavioral tests, and a strong data analysis plan.
  2. Biosketches for Principal Investigator(s) and Key Collaborators. The investigative team should include members with strong expertise in mouse behavior and a track record of success with collaborative efforts.
  3. Current and pending support for Principal Investigator(s) and Key Collaborators.
  4. Budget. There is no budget cap, although indirect costs are limited to 20 percent of direct costs. Budgets will strongly factor into the competiveness of an application. Therefore, proposals should include a realistic budget sufficiently detailed for evaluation of needed resources. SFARI will work closely with investigators with competitive applications to arrive at a suitable budget.
  5. Research environment and resources. Investigators should demonstrate access to appropriate resources for high-capacity data collection and analysis.
  6. Timelines and milestones. Expected time to start data collection and complete the project should be included, as well as intervening milestones.
  7. Data-sharing plan. The plan should include sharing of raw and analyzed data. Data dissemination is expected to begin within one year of starting data collection, and SFARI will work with the investigative team to achieve this goal. In consultation with awardees, there will be an embargo period after the data release date, in which producers of the phenotype data have the sole right to publish the data.

    Application deadline

    The deadline for full proposal submission is 5 March, 2012, 5pm EST. Competitive applications will receive external peer review. SFARI will make final funding decisions; notification of award is expected in June 2012, with funding expected to begin July 2012.

    Instructions for submission

    Applications must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at proposalCENTRAL. Please log in as an applicant, scroll to ‘Simons Foundation’ and click on the program.


    Scientific inquiries: sciencerfa@simonsfoundation.org (646) 654-0066

    Administrative inquiries: grants@simonsfoundation.org (646) 654-0066

    proposalCENTRAL: pcsupport@altum.com (800) 875-2562


    1: Horev G. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108, 17076-17081 (2011) PubMed

    2: Peça J. et al. Nature 472, 437-442 (2011) PubMed

    3: Peñagarikano O. et al. Cell 147, 235-246 (2011) PubMed