NIH – Early Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder (R01, R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

October 30, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

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

It is estimated that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affects 1 in 68 children in the United States. Evidence from studies of infants at high risk for ASD reveals that although the age of onset of ASD clinical features is variable, subtle signs can already be detected in the first year of life. These include brain volume changes in children with ASD, as well as behavioral changes in social visual and vocal engagement. Despite these findings, detecting autism reliably in young children is difficult and the average age of diagnosis for ASD remains at approximately four years of age. In addition, studies have established that children from racial and ethnic minority groups are often diagnosed and engaged in treatment at later ages. Delays in diagnosis have profound cascading effects, since early intervention has been demonstrated to improve cognitive and behavioral outcomes for young children with ASD.

Since early detection and treatment are two of the most important factors optimizing outcomes, universal screening is one approach to reducing the age of diagnosis and improving outcomes. Well-validated instruments exist to screen toddlers for ASD between 18-24 months of age, and research in high-risk sibling populations has shown that screening at age 18-24 months is a successful strategy to detect risk for ASD. This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is in response to strong evidence that many infants at risk for ASD show differences in the way social attention and early forms of communication develop over the first year of life. These early signs correspond with other research findings that genetic and environmental risks for ASD appear to act before birth to alter very early stages of brain development. NIH-funded research has identified risk markers within the first 12 months of age, yet a critical gap exists in translating these methods into practical screening tools that could be implemented in the general population, within community settings. This FOA encourages applications that translate existing methods and findings of ASD risk assessment into objective, efficient, cost-effective screening tools for use in infants (0-12 months of age) that are readily deployable in the general population.

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

  • Evaluation of sensitivity, specificity and other psychometric properties of existing tools or methods to identify ASD risk in infants (0-12 months of age).
  • Validation of existing approaches and ASD risk measurement models in laboratory settings, and demonstration of feasibility for future scalability and implementation in the general population and within the general pediatric clinical care setting.
  • Further refinement and testing of novel screening approaches to identify at risk infants 0-12 months of age.
  • Utilization of multi-modal methods of determining ASD risk, such as measures of behavior (e.g., eye tracking, social responsivity, vocalization/pre-speech, sensorimotor/movement), medical history (e.g., prenatal/developmental/family history), genomics (whole exome sequencing), and other biomarkers.
  • Construction of risk algorithms using single or multiple parameters, via computational or machine learning approaches (e.g. identification of risk parameters based on subclinical ASD traits in the general population, data mining approaches using existing health records to assess risk, digital quantification of social behavior/biomarkers to assess risk).

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with NIH staff when developing plans for an application (see Scientific/Research Contacts, Section VII). This early contact will provide an opportunity to clarify NIH policies and guidelines, and help to identify whether the proposed project is consistent with NIH program priorities.

NINDS Interest language:

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is interested in studies that use neurophysiological tools for autism screening and/or involve rare, monogenetic forms of ASD in the early development of screening tools.

Deadline:  January 04, 2019 (letters of intent); February 4, 2019 (full proposals)


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities