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2012 SSC RFA (closed)

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

To this end, we solicit applications for SFARI Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) Awards from individuals who will conduct bold, imaginative, rigorous and relevant research. Innovative high-risk, high-impact proposals are encouraged.

Objective of the SFARI SSC Awards
The SSC, an initiative created by the Simons Foundation, is a 13-site effort to collect a well-characterized cohort of families who have only one child with autism and unaffected parents and biological sibling(s). This effort has resulted in a collection of about 2,700 families, whose phenotypic and genetic data and biospecimens are available to all qualified researchers. Subsets of these families are also available for recontacting for follow-up studies by qualified investigators.

A deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorders or potential therapeutic approaches will require investigation at multiple levels, and the SSC can be utilized to further this goal. To this end, we solicit applications for SFARI SSC Awards to support studies that build on the phenotyping and genotyping of the SSC collection, or associated biospecimens. We will consider applications that may involve analyses of the existing data and biospecimens and/or recontacting SSC families for follow-up studies, including, but not limited to, studies focused on molecular mechanisms, circuits, anatomy, cognition, subgroup comparisons, behavior, biomarkers and candidate therapies.

We are specifically interested in helping to launch longitudinal studies that examine the developmental trajectories of children in the SSC as they progress into adolescence, but in most cases support beyond an initial launch period will need to come in substantial part from other sources. In the future, renewal applications will be considered only in exceptional circumstances.

We seek applications from independent investigators who can devote a substantial portion of time to this effort. We encourage applications from researchers familiar with the SSC dataset, including former principal and co-investigators, from researchers experienced in the field of autism who have not yet been involved in SFARI projects, and from researchers who are not currently working on autism but who have expertise that could be brought to bear on this complex disorder. We will accept collaborative grants involving multiple investigators and encourage studies that use data from multiple sites.

Applicants are strongly advised to familiarize themselves with the work that SFARI currently supports, and to think about how their proposals might complement existing grants.

The proposal should include a realistic appraisal and strategy for identifying sufficient numbers of families or individuals who will actively participate in the new study, as well as consideration of how re-contacting and recruitment (and attrition) may affect interpretation of the results. This may require pilot work, familiarity with the SFARI Base database and with the online registry [email protected] and/or collaboration with investigators who are familiar with the issues involved in re-contacting SSC families or participants from other cohorts.

We expect Simons Investigators to share renewable reagents and data developed with Simons Foundation funds with other qualified investigators. Access to the SSC will be available to all approved scientists through SFARI Base. Policies regarding acquisition of SSC biospecimens are available online.

We expect to fund proposals for a maximum of $250,000, including indirect costs, per year for up to two (2) years, but under exceptional circumstances will consider proposals at higher levels. Smaller-scale pilot proposals (maximum budget $125,000) are also welcome. All budgets over $250,000 per year require pre-approval by SFARI science staff ([email protected]).

Indirect costs on all SFARI grant types are limited to 20 percent of the modified total direct costs (see SFARI policies).

The Simons Foundation's salary support guidelines are identical to those set by the National Institutes of Health for faculty, trainees and students. The Simons Foundation reserves the right to modify budgets when an application has been selected for an award (see SFARI policy).

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.

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. For assistance, please call 800-875-2562 or email [email protected].

Deadline and notification schedule

* 12 December 2011 – Letter of intent due
* 16 February 2012 – Notification of approval of letters of intent
* 19 March 2012 – Full proposal due
* 1 June 2012 – Notification of grant awards
* 1 July 2012 through 1 September 2012 – Grant award funding begins

Letter of intent
Prospective applicants must submit a letter of intent (LOI) using the LOI template via proposalCENTRAL. The deadline for LOI submission is 12 December 2011, 5 p.m. EST.

The LOI should be no more than three (3) pages long (including references and figures) and should include:

  • Title
  • Name, affiliation and contact information of Principal Investigator and Key Collaborators
  • Research project description, including significance, preliminary data (as applicable), experimental design, specific aims, potential impact on autism research, novelty, milestones and timeline.

Applicants are invited to focus introductions on the background information directly relevant to the proposed research; there is no need to provide a scholarly review of autism.

Please note that letters of intent exceeding the three (3)-page limit will not be reviewed.

Successful LOI applicants will be notified by 16 February 2012, and will be invited to submit a full proposal. Only then will applicants have access to the full application on proposalCENTRAL.

Full proposal
The deadline for full proposal submission is 19 March 2012, 5 p.m. EDT.

Full proposals should include:

  • Narrative, not exceeding six (6) pages (excluding references and figures), describing relevant background to the application, significance of the proposed studies, preliminary results, experimental design, pitfalls and alternative strategies, novelty, relevance to autism, timeline and milestones.
  • Investigators applying for continuing or supplemental funding of a current SFARI award should include a two (2)-page progress report in support of this request
  • Bio-sketch of Principal Investigator(s) and Key Collaborators
  • Current and pending support for Principal Investigator(s) and Key Collaborators
  • Budget
  • Research environment and resources
  • Data-sharing plan

Please note that proposals exceeding the six (6)-page limit will not be reviewed, unless pre-approved by the SFARI scientific staff ([email protected]).

Review of applications
A committee of peers will review applications. Reviewers will consider excellence of science, relevance to autism, and appropriateness of budget. The list of previous reviewers can be found online. The Simons Foundation Board of Directors makes final funding decisions.

Proposals selected for SFARI Awards will be announced on 1 June 2012, and funding will begin on 1 July 2012 through 1 September 2012.

SFARI Award Contact:

proposalCENTRAL Contacts: