Autism Speaks is Seeking Applications for Postdoctoral Fellowships in Translational Autism Research

Date: 
February 17, 2011

February 17, 2011

Autism Speaks is pleased to announce its latest Postdoctoral Fellowship funding opportunities for projects in translational autism research.

Autism Speaks' mission is to improve the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In support of that mission we provide funding along the entire research continuum -- from discovery to development to dissemination -- for innovative projects that hold considerable promise for significantly improving the lives of persons with autism.

Today, Autism Speaks is launching a Request for Applications (RFA) to support Postdoctoral Fellowships in Translational Autism Research. The Postdoctoral Fellowship in Translational Autism Research is designed to support promising, well-qualified postdoctoral scientists in their pursuit of research training in translational research. Translational research seeks to accelerate the pace at which basic scientific discoveries are translated into novel and effective ways of diagnosing, preventing, and treating conditions. We seek to encourage new investigators to enter into the field of autism spectrum disorders translational research by providing funding for multidisciplinary training. This fellowship will support postdoctoral training in research that seeks to move biological science “from bench to bedside” or from experiments conducted in the laboratory into preclinical or clinical trials to real world settings, including hospitals, clinics, and other community settings, with the goal of improving outcomes for individuals with ASD. Specifically, this fellowship will support research training that involves translation of biological discoveries toward novel and more effective methods or strategies for treating or diagnosing ASD.

A key motivation behind this fellowship is to remove barriers and develop better communication and collaboration among basic scientists, applied researchers, and clinicians. To this end, this fellowship requires a multidisciplinary setting and training plan that includes experience in both the laboratory and clinical settings. In addition to providing exceptional research training, the fellowship must include opportunities for two-way communication between basic scientists and clinicians. An example is a training plan that involves research on identifying biomarkers in the lab and observations of people with ASD in a clinical setting. Another example is clinical research involving behavioral studies of persons with ASD combined with training by bench scientists who are studying the neural or genetic basis of ASD. Such training and experiences are designed to ensure that basic science mentors provide insights into mechanisms and research tools that ultimately will be useful in clinical settings while clinicians provide insights into the clinical phenomena and needs of the people being served that might then inform basic questions. Thus, trainees are required to have a primary mentor, the faculty member with whom they directly carry out their research, as well as one or more secondary mentors, who will provide integrated training experiences in different disciplines. Together, the mentoring team should offer opportunities for the fellow to learn about both basic laboratory science and people with ASD seen in clinical practice or clinical research.

Postdoctoral Fellowships in Translational Autism Research may include but are not limited to training in research that focuses on the following:

  • Discovery of biomarkers (including genes, peptides, metabolites, etc.) with clear potential for improving screening, diagnosis, or optimizing or predicting response to treatment
  • Testing of treatments though novel model systems and bioassays
  • Exploring novel clinical applications of small molecules, peptides, proteins, and/or antibodies that hold potential for modifying symptoms of ASD
  • Use of induced pluripotent stem cells to advance understanding of biomarkers or response to novel compounds
  • Identification of high risk genetic and environmental factors for ASD through evaluation of published research and replication studies, with the aim of devising counseling recommendations for at risk families
  • Animal model studies exploring novel treatments
  • The development of in vitro model systems for new target identification and validation
  • Clinical trials that incorporate a biomarker to stratify, predict, or optimize response to treatment
  • Clinical trials that combine biological and behavioral interventions
  • Neuroimaging and/or electrophysiology studies to uncover basic brain mechanisms or monitor clinical status including response to treatment

Registration for Postdoctoral Fellowship in Translational Autism Research applications is now open. Letters of Intent are due on March 31, 2011. For more information, please find the RFA here.