SPARK is a project sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). The overall mission of SFARI is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by supporting innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.
SFARI was launched in 2003 by the Simons Foundation to bring more high-quality scientists into the field of autism research. Today, with a budget of $75 million per year, SFARI supports over 250 autism researchers in the U.S. and around the world. These scientists work in a range of scientific fields including genetics, neuroscience and clinical research. SFARI was an early leader in the study of the genetics of autism. Seeing a need to create a large genetic data set of autism families available to all researchers, SFARI launched the Simons Simplex Collection in 2006 and gathered genetic and other information on nearly 3,000 autism families. Data from the Simons Simplex Collection has yielded many important advances in the genetic basis of autism.
SFARI also launched the Simons Variation in Individuals Project (Simons VIP) in 2010, which focuses on learning about the characteristics and symptoms of people who have known genetic changes associated with autism and developmental delay. Simons VIP is now a community of families who share one of several specific genetic variations and who are available to partner with researchers for other studies.
SPARK is the next step in SFARI’s effort to advance autism research. Autism is a complex and varied condition that will require genetic analysis of tens of thousands of families not only to further genetic understanding but to gather important behavioral and medical information from all types of families impacted by autism. While one of SPARK’s goals is to advance science, our other immediate goal is to provide useful resources for those impacted by autism.
If you would like to learn more about SFARI’s projects and the autism research it supports, please visit SFARI.org.