SFARI Programs


The Simons Foundation is a private foundation that advances research in several different fields. We do this by supporting the work that advances the frontiers of research in math and the basic sciences.

The Simons Foundation provides funding for autism and neurodevelopmental research through the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). SFARI’s mission is to improve the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance. Simons Searchlight is a program supported by SFARI. This short video below explains the grantmaking and other research programs within SFARI, including Simons Searchlight. You may find it enlightening to understand the background and thinking that led to the launch of Simons Searchlight!

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Simons Searchlight

Simons Searchlight is our international research program for genetic conditions that are associated with rare neurodevelopmental disorders. We aim to collect information from participants to better understand the life course of these individuals. This is a “genes first” cohort. Notably, only about 1 in 3 registrants have a formal diagnosis of autism. The list of the genetic conditions that we study continues to grow.

SPARKSimons Foundation Powering Autism Research

SPARK recruits and engages a community of people with autism and their families that live in the United States to participate in research studies. We collaborate with 31 university-affiliated autism centers across the country. Some people who receive a genetic diagnosis from SPARK will be invited to participate in Simons Searchlight to continue their research journey. Learn more about how this process works.

Autism BrainNet

Autism BrainNet is our biorepository of postmortem brain tissue made possible through a collaborative network of academic sites that collect, store, and distribute brain tissue. Simons Searchlight and Autism BrainNet share data to make research easier.

SFARI Research Resources

As of early 2022, SFARI has contributed to over 1,700 research publications, provided research funding to more than 360 investigators in the United States and abroad, and had 411 researchers or companies access SFARI cohort data or biospecimens.

SFARI offers funding for researchers around the world to support studies that are relevant to our mission. Any researchers studying one of Simons Searchlight’s genetic conditions may apply. Below are more SFARI research resources.

iPSCs, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

  • We use blood sample donations from some of our Simons Searchlight participants to create a type of stem cells called iPSCs. All iPSCs are available for distribution to approved researchers through SFARI Base. This program allows researchers to study human disease in a lab setting to help develop personalized medicines.


  • SFARI Base is the portal to access data and biospecimens, such as tissue, blood, and plasma, from SFARI research initiatives. SFARI Base is an online portal for submitting research requests. All data and information in SFARI Base advances research and is readily available for low or no cost to all external researchers and biotech or pharmaceutical companies. Simons Searchlight data are available through SFARI Base.

Research Match

  • Research Match is a program designed for researchers to recruit people enrolled in Simons Searchlight or SPARK into new research studies. It is free of charge.


  • SFARI Gene is an open access database that provides the most up-to-date information on all known human genes that are linked to autism spectrum disorders. You can use this database to track the latest findings on genetic risk factors linked to autism and check out individual Simons Searchlight genes.

Model Organism Repository

  • Through SFARI funding, researchers have access to model organisms, specifically mice, rats, and zebrafish.