Bridge to Independence Award -- Request for Applications

Funding Agency:
Simons Foundation

The autism research community has expanded substantially in recent years and SFARI has contributed to this change by attracting outstanding established scientists to the field of autism. In order to sustain this level of scientific excellence in future years, SFARI is extending our support to promising early-career investigators. One of the most salient milestones in a scientific career is the transition from formal mentorship to an independent position. Unfortunately, making this transition has become increasingly difficult in recent years, in part because of the decreasing number of tenure-track faculty positions, compounded by the increasing number of Ph.D. graduates and postgraduate traineeships. SFARI created the Bridge to Independence (BTI) Award program in 2015 to address this issue and to encourage continued excellence in the autism research field.

The 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. Awardees will receive a commitment of $495,000 over three years, activated upon assumption of a tenure-track professorship at a U.S. or Canadian research institution.

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.

Letters of Intent Due: August 8, 2019; March 2, 2020

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

  • 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, PilotResearch, and Targeted awards) as the principal investigator (PI).
  • 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.



Amount Description

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 (see SFARI policies). The award is administered through the institution at which the PI has a tenure-track faculty appointment. Awardees may defer submission of their approval application for up to one year after receiving their finalist notification in order to secure their faculty position. Funds may not be used toward the PI’s salary but may provide salary support for other laboratory personnel. Institutional start-up packages may not be reduced because of SFARI funding.

Funding Type



Medical Fellow/Resident
Post Doctoral Fellows


Medical - Basic Science
Medical - Clinical Science
Medical - Translational
Social Sciences

External Deadline

March 2, 2020