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Bridge to Independence (BTI) Award Program

Grants to USA and Canada Postdoctoral Researchers to
Investigate the Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Simons Foundation - Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)

Deadline Date:



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Grants to USA and Canada postdoctoral researchers to support research related to the treatment and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. LOIs, as well as letters of recommendation on behalf of the candidate, must be submitted prior to submitting a full application. The purpose of this program is to invest in the upcoming generation of autism investigators by identifying talented early-career scientists interested in autism research and facilitating their transition to independent research careers.

SFARI Mission:
The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) seeks to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.

Program Overview:
The Bridge to Independence (BTI) Award program promotes talented early-career scientists by facilitating their transition to research independence and providing grant funding at the start of their professorships. Annual Request for applications (RFA) open each spring and are aimed at senior postdoctoral fellows who intend to seek tenure-track faculty positions during the upcoming academic year.

Importantly, although eligible applicants must be currently in a postdoctoral training position, the BTI Award itself is not a training fellowship but a research grant to newly appointed faculty. The program’s selection process is uniquely designed to enhance the BTI awardees’ job prospects by providing a letter that specifies SFARI financial commitment to the research project once the BTI awardee has secured a suitable faculty position.

The BTI Award program welcomes applications that span the breadth of science that SFARI normally supports, including genetics, molecular mechanisms, circuits and systems, and clinical science.

While the Foundation encourages applications from postdoctoral fellows who are working on autism-related projects, it would like to stress that this award is also open to researchers who are not currently working on autism but who are interested in starting research projects in this area and who have expertise that could be brought to bear on this complex disorder.

Funding Information:
- The award is administered through the institution at which the PI has a tenure-track faculty appointment.
- It is expected that proposed budgets reflect the accurate proportion of resources (e.g., personnel, supplies, equipment, travel) needed to complete the SFARI-funded project. Funds may be used toward salary and tuition support for laboratory personnel.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 173042

Estimated Size of Grant:

The principal investigator (PI) will receive research support at a fixed rate of $495,000 over three (3) years, including 20 percent for indirect costs.

Term of Contract:

Grant funding will begin on a rolling basis between January 1, 2019 - December 1, 2020. The program period is three (3) years.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

- Applicants must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree
- Applicants must have fewer than six (6) years of postdoctoral or otherwise mentored training.
- Applicants must be currently in non-independent, mentored, training positions, as recognized by their institution. The following guidelines should be used to distinguish independent from non-independent positions (modified from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) K99/R00 program announcement eligibility section):
Evidence for non-independence may include:
- The applicant’s research is entirely funded by another investigator’s grants.
- The applicant’s research is conducted entirely in another investigator’s assigned space.
- According to institutional policy, the applicant is not allowed to submit an application for an NIH research grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant (e.g, Pilot, Research, and Targeted awards) as the principal investigator (PI).

Conversely, evidence for independence, and therefore lack of eligibility, includes:
- The applicant has a full-time faculty position. Exception: A clinician who holds a faculty member position in order to fulfill their clinical responsibilities but who does not hold an independent research faculty position may still be eligible. Such individuals should contact the foundation to confirm their eligibility prior to submitting their applications.
- The applicant received a start-up package for support of his/her independent research
- The applicant has research space dedicated to his/her own research.
- The applicant is eligible to apply for independent research funding as the PI of an NIH research grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant (e.g, Pilot, Research, and Targeted awards).

- Applicants must be actively seeking a tenure-track position at a U.S. or Canadian institution of higher education during the 2019-2020 academic year.
- Applicants are not eligible if they are recipients of other career development awards with similar budgetary scopes as the SFARI Bridge to Independence Award.

These include, but are not limited to:
- NIH K99/R00 (please note that other K awardees may be eligible, e.g., recipients of K01 and K08) Burroughs-Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists
- American Academy of Neurology Career Development Award
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray fellowship

You are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI before applying if you believe your career development award is comparable to the BTI Award but it is not listed above.

- Applicants must not have accepted a formal offer for a tenure-track faculty position.
- There are no citizenship requirements.

- Funds may not be used toward the PI’s salary but may provide salary support for other laboratory personnel.
- Since it is expected that all awardees will receive institutional start-up packages, the Foundation strongly discourages budget allocations for general lab equipment, such as freezers and refrigerators. All budgets must be approved by SFARI before funding may begin. Institutional startup packages may not be reduced because of SFARI funding.

Pre-Application Information:

The deadline for LOI submission is Thursday, August 8, 2019 at 5 p.m. EDT.

Important dates:
- May 14, 2019: proposalCENTRAL opens for LOIs
- August 8, 2019: Letters of recommendation and LOIs due
- November 21, 2019: Awardees notified
- December 1, 2019 – December 1, 2020: Approval application submission (rolling basis)
- January 1, 2020 – December 1, 2021: Grant funding begins (rolling basis)

All potential applicants with questions about eligibility are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI before submitting an application.

Letters of recommendation: (separate, blind submission; deadline August 8, 2019)
Three (3) letters of recommendation are required from current or former mentors, or other senior scientists who have substantial familiarity with your scientific career thus far. At least one letter of recommendation must be from a current or former scientific mentor. Confidential letters must be submitted through proposalCENTRAL (see instructions available for download in proposalCENTRAL).

Letters of Intent:
LOIs must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at proposalCENTRAL.

BTI awardees will be notified of their status by November 21, 2019. The notification letters will outline SFARI’s commitment to awarding the Bridge to Independence Award, contingent upon satisfactory fulfillment of the approval application. Upon notification, awardees have up to one year to secure a tenure-track faculty position and submit an approval application.

Approval application:
To activate their grant, awardees must submit an approval application. SFARI will review these documents internally with the intention of funding all awardees who have secured sufficient institutional resources and academic privileges to complete the BTI project. If these are deemed acceptable, a grant funding letter will be sent.

Grant Policies and Procedures:
SFARI Funding Policies:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Submit LOIs through ProposalCENTRAL:

Scientific inquiries:

Administrative inquiries:

Simons collections inquiries:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

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