Today, the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) announced the launch of SPARK, an online initiative designed to engage 50,000 people with autism and their families in autism research. Participants will have the opportunity to contribute a DNA saliva sample for analysis along with medical and behavioral information.
SPARK stands for Simons [Foundation] Powering Autism Research for Knowledge. The national initiative aims to connect families affected by autism to research opportunities that advance understanding of autism.
“Efforts like SPARK continue to underscore the critical nature of genetic data in understanding the roots of autism and developing more effective therapies for it,” says Mathew Pletcher, Autism Speaks interim chief science officer. “SPARK should prove to be an important complement to our own MSSNG program. Together, these two programs have great potential to open an era of personalized and precision medical care and services for all of those with autism.”
Over the next year, SPARK registration information will be available at more than two dozen Autism Speaks Walks nationwide. Each is near one of SPARK’s 21 clinical sites, which include Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network centers in Philadelphia; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Columbia, Missouri; and Nashville, Tennessee.
“SPARK will help researchers make new discoveries that will ultimately lead to the development of new supports and treatments to improve the lives of people living with challenges,” says Wendy Chung, the project’s principal investigator and SFARI’s director of clinical research. “Together we can SPARK a movement in autism research.”
Registering for SPARK can be done online at no cost. Participants who agree to share their DNA will receive saliva collection kits. Once a participating family has returned saliva samples and completed a medical and family history, they will receive a $50 gift card. SPARK will also provide participants with access to online resources that include information designed to help them meet their daily challenges.
Qualified researchers are invited to recruit SPARK participants for their studies.
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