NIH – Research on Autism Spectrum Disorders (R01, R03, R21)

August 8, 2016 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The description below was taken from the R01 version of this FOA.

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to encourage research grant applications to support research designed to elucidate the etiology, epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment, and optimal means of service delivery in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Autism Spectrum Disorders share a cluster of impairments in social communication, as well as the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, or activities. These complex disorders are usually of lifelong duration and affect multiple aspects of development, learning, and adaptation at home and in the community, thus representing a pressing public health need. The etiologies of these disorders are not yet understood, but may include a combination of genetic and environmental influences.

Basic research into the pathophysiology of ASD, including research on brain mechanisms and genetics, is of special interest. Also of high priority are clinical and applied investigations that may lead to the development of new treatments and interventions, specifically those that hypothesize and test a mechanism of treatment effect, as well as the development of validated instruments that may be used as stratification tools or as outcome measures in treatment and intervention studies.

Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Epidemiology: Studies of the genetic and environmental epidemiology of ASD to determine risk and protective processes in the etiology of the disorder, including environmental exposures during pregnancy and early childhood; longitudinal studies of high-risk populations; epidemiologic research on interactive genetic and environmental factors or processes that increase or decrease risk for ASD; studies of the developmental course of ASD across the life-span; studies that characterize the range of expression within families; and research that characterizes and quantifies risk and protective processes associated with co-occurring features.
  • Screening, Early Identification, and Diagnosis: Studies of key features of ASD associated with various stages of development, including those focused on adults; development of new screening tools for use in a variety of settings; assessment of comorbid features including epilepsy; and the creation of new measures to be used in longitudinal and/or treatment studies, as well as measures that further differentiate subtypes of ASD.
  • Genetic Studies: Family-based or population-based genetic analyses that aim to: identify specific susceptibility genes using whole genome/exome approaches; investigate epigenetic mechanisms and long range control of gene expression; systems approaches that incorporate multiple types of -omics data; detect locus heterogeneity; and analyze the interaction of autism susceptibility genes with environmental exposures and/or genes responsive to environmental insult.  An area of particular interest is the effect of genetic factors on therapeutic drug response in individuals with ASD (see Pharmacogenomic Studies, below).
  • Brain Mechanisms: Studies of brain mechanisms underlying the development, regulation, and modulation of behaviors characterizing ASD, particularly those mechanisms involving social communication; studies of brain mechanisms and biological factors underlying atypical onset patterns or the loss of previously acquired skills; studies of brain mechanisms involved in the development of abnormal electroencephalograms and epilepsy, and studies to clarify the subtypes of seizures and seizure disorders in ASD; studies to define the neurobiological basis for the role of neuroimmune/autoimmune factors; studies using model systems to examine brain dysfunction related to ASD; and studies using novel reagents and tools to identify molecular, cellular, or developmental mechanisms relevant to ASD.
  • Shared Neurobiology of ASD with Fragile X Syndrome, and Other Related Disorders: Studies of developmental and functional processes, pathways, and brain mechanisms that will lead to an understanding of shared etiology or pathophysiology among these disorders; analysis of autism-related neurobiological and behavioral phenotypes in related “single gene” disorders; and analyses that would identify useful and specific clinical endpoints that would register measurable improvements in response to treatment interventions in clinical populations.
  • Cognitive Science: Developmental studies of relevant behaviors during infancy including attention to social and nonsocial stimuli, affective behavior, gaze, imitation, reciprocity and play, and their emergence in infants with, or at-risk for, ASD; research on social behavior and social cognition across the life-span; studies leading to more sophisticated measures of higher cognitive functioning, especially in social communication; and studies of sensory-motor factors and multisensory integration.
  • Communication Skills: Longitudinal, developmental studies of behaviors that are precursors to later communication, and their emergence in children with ASD; sensory, motor, and social-cognitive impairments that impact interaction and communication; predictors of atypical onset patterns in expressive language abilities; and interventions designed to remediate communication and related deficits across the life-span.
  • Pharmacological/Biological Interventions: Studies testing new pharmacological agents or neuromodulatory devices that specifically target the core social deficits of ASD; identification and validation of novel treatment targets or biomarkers that assess effects on key biological, neurodevelopmental and/or behavioral endpoints disrupted in ASD; and development of validated outcome measures.
  • Pharmacogenomic Studies: Analyses of SNP and DNA sequence data that identify biomarkers to resolve clinical heterogeneity and heterogeneity of therapeutic drug/device response; studies of genetically determined functional changes in nuclear and cell surface receptors to explain the ineffectiveness of therapeutic agents and adverse or paradoxical drug/device responses; and studies of allelic variation occurring in individual transporter genes that are associated with a functional consequence.
  • Psychosocial/Behavioral Interventions: Studies to develop novel interventions for persons with ASD; the development of interventions designed to address deficits in complex social abilities or their developmental precursors; studies that develop and test interventions for infants and toddlers who are at-risk for ASD; use of interventions as “probes” to examine specific theories regarding possible neuropathogenesis; and development of validated outcome measures.
  • Services Research: Research on the organization, delivery, coordination, and financing of services for persons with ASD and their families, within or across service settings; studies aimed at better identifying and addressing changes in service and rehabilitative needs across the life-span, including during transitions from childhood to adolescence, and adolescence to adulthood; interventions to improve the quality and outcomes of treatment and rehabilitation services; studies of ways to coordinate or integrate services across settings including specialty mental health, general health, and other settings such as educational, vocational, and housing services, in order to maximize receipt of appropriate services; and research on assessing the value and improving the efficiency of the delivery and sustainability of needed services and treatments.

Deadlines:  standard dates apply


  • R01 –
  • R03 –
  • R21 –

Filed Under: Funding Opportunities