Dana Research Grants

Autism Speaks Receives More-Than-Expected Number of Research Proposals

Dana Foundation to Assist in Administering Grant Requests

Autism Speaks has received a higher-than-expected 58 applications for a new grant program it initiated to target established scientists at leading medical and research institutions. The Dana Foundation is assisting in the administration of this first round of grants. Autism Speaks is encouraging the autism community to share the Request for Proposals below with others and to encourage colleagues in the research field to apply to future rounds of this program. Requests for Proposals for the initial round closed January 18, 2006. Funding begins July 2006.

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS

Application Deadline: January 18, 2006

The objective of this request for proposals is to encourage established scientists in any of a variety of disciplines to take on the challenge of autism and begin to answer questions that will lead to better diagnosis, prevention and treatment of this disorder. To achieve this goal, we anticipate that investigators new to autism research may seek collaborations with clinical autism centers or one of several tissue or blood banks that have relevant clinical materials. We understand that fruitful projects may involve collaborations with institutions outside of the home base of the principal investigator. Autism Speaks anticipates a sustained relationship of follow-on funding to investigators with promising results.

During the past decade, there has been an enormous increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism. This was once thought to be rare disorder, but autism is now being diagnosed in almost 1% in boys and ¼% of girls. Diagnosis is made by three years of age in most cases and represents a heterogeneous syndrome with delays and often regressions in social interaction and communication skills. Repetitive and at times self-injurious behavior is also part of the symptom complex. To date there is no biomedical test for the disorder and, despite well-defined increases in the familial occurrence of autism, there is no identified genetic abnormality in most cases. There is a strong suspicion of genetic vulnerabilities interacting with environmental exposure.

We recognize the need for new approaches to making an objective diagnosis of autism, studies to explore exposures that might trigger autism in susceptible populations, and the applications of the latest technologies to identify the basis for familial susceptibility to autism. Intensive behavioral therapies are generally accepted to improve the outcome of autism in some children, especially when begun in early life. Studies to build on these successes and to better understand the predictors of who may or may not respond to behavioral therapy, and what augmentations to current therapies might improve the success rate, are certainly appropriate. These are a few examples of areas that would benefit from additional investigations.

Autism Speaks acknowledges the importance of basic advances in understanding the processes of brain development and synaptic reorganization. It is upon these advances that future translational research will depend. However, this RFP is targeting the development of translational projects rather than basic studies of brain development. Depending on grantee progress, we intend to provide ongoing support to successful investigators.

New investigators should make themselves aware not only of the current literature, but also of the currently funded projects underway throughout the country and world. This information is available from web sites at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as private foundations including National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN).

Requirements

Proposals should involve patient-oriented clinical research. Exceptions for considering research in animal models or in human tissues will be made only in cases where the research has direct clinical relevance, but cannot yet be safely and effectively conducted in humans. Each successful applicant proposing to undertake research will receive funding totaling up to $100,000 over a period of up to three years.All applicants please note:
  • The foundation is prioritizing support for investigators who are new to the field of autism research.Established investigators in the autism field must show how their proposed research differs from their current research pursuits.
  • Investigators proposing patient-oriented studies should provide preliminary evidence that the required number of participants—patients and controls—are available to the applicant.
  • For all proposals that do not propose to undertake studies in humans, the direct relevance to autism needs to be explicitly stated.
  • Proposals for research planning, such as for undertaking multi-institutional clinical or epidemiological studies, will be considered.
  • Certain areas are not appropriate for consideration:
  • Ideas for which you do not have preliminary data.
  • Instrument utilization without initial evidence of feasibility.

Eligibility

Each dean of a U.S. medical school and of a school of public health, and the presidents of the few selected biomedical research institutions that have been invited specifically by letter, may nominate one applicant. To be considered under this Program, each application must be countersigned by the appropriate dean or invited biomedical institution's president.

Investigators at institutions that are affiliated with a medical school are eligible to apply only through their affiliated medical school, by submitting an application to the medical school dean. Projects involving collaborations with NIH intramural researchers or industry scientists are acceptable.

Applying

Deadline for receipt of page 1 of the proposal via email to autismspeaks@dana.org is January 3, 2006.

Page 1:

On institutional letterhead: Project title; investigator(s') name(s), title(s), phone and fax numbers, E-mail, and street address(es). Please also enter the general field of the proposal (genetics, epidemiology, toxicology, etc).

Deadline for receipt of full proposals is Wednesday, January 18, 2006.

The program is designed to enable investigators to obtain pilot data more quickly than is possible through other funding processes.

All applications should be in the form of a four-page preliminary proposal, using at least NIH-standard 12-point font size (font sizes smaller than that will not be reviewed) and NIH standard margins, in all directions, of at least ½ inch, which includes:

Page 1:

On institutional letterhead: Project title; investigator(s') name(s), title(s), phone and fax numbers, E-mail, and street address(es). Please also enter the general field of the proposal (genetics, epidemiology, toxicology, etc).

Please include the names and full addresses of the sponsored research officer and the dean or president forwarding the application. All proposals must be countersigned by the dean of a U.S. medical school or president of a specifically invited research institution to be considered eligible.

Pages 2-4:

Section I: A clearly and succinctly stated hypothesis.
Section II: The aims of the proposed research project. If this proposal is for technology development or modification, please provide initial evidence of the project's feasibility.
Section III: The research significance and potential clinical application(s) of the research. Please also emphasize how the proposed research differs from studies currently funded by others.
Section IV: The methods. What specific tests or studies are proposed to develop the pilot data? If human participants are planned, please provide preliminary evidence that the number required can be recruited.
Section V: The qualifications of the primary investigator(s) for undertaking the proposed research. What facilities and resources at the applicant institution(s) would be used in the research? Please provide evidence that required technologies would be available for this project.

Additional Pages

Appendix A: A list of all active grants and pending proposals by the applicant(s). Please include an abstract, specifying the aims, for any existing or pending grants involving overlap between these sources of support and the proposed project.
Appendix B: Using two additional pages, please provide a standard NIH two-page format CV for the primary investigator(s). At this time, do not send any supporting documents, or a budget.
Appendix C: Optional: If high resolution photographs are vital to illustrate or support the methodology proposed, please enclose 10 glossy originals.

All applicants, please note that Autism Speaks does not provide support for indirect costs. As much as 10 percent of the total grant award may be used to purchase equipment for the project. The balance is to be used to meet direct research costs.

Proposal Review and Notification of Grants

Preliminary proposals received by the noon deadline will be considered for further development. Applicants will be informed within twelve weeks about whether they are being invited to prepare full proposals. Selected grants will be funded starting July 2006. Please email pages 1-4 and appendices as one document.

The original application and ten copies, each stapled, should be sent to:

Autism Speaks c/o The Dana Foundation
Tyler Ostrander
Program Assistant
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 900
New York, NY 10151

An electronic copy also should be emailed to Tyler Ostrander at autismspeaks@dana.org. Staff is unable to respond to inquiries regarding application content.

For more information on the Dana Foundation, visit their web site at http://www.dana.org/.