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Autism Research at UNC

Translating scientific discoveries
into practice.

The Center’s “cells-to-service” model leverages collaboration to solve autism’s most intractable problems. Our cross-campus alliance expands the impact of research results and accelerates the development of targeted, personalized treatments for individuals on the autism spectrum.

SPARK:  Igniting Autism Research, Improving Lives

Today, we simply don’t know enough about autism.  The mission of SPARK, a landmark online research partnership involving 50,000 people with autism and their families, is simple:  to speed up research and advance understanding of autism to help improve lives.

SPARK will provide researchers with medical and genetic information from tens of thousands of individuals and families affected by autism.  SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge) aims to build a research community of tens of thousands of individuals with autism and their families, who will be asked to share medical and genetic information with scientists and agree to be contacted about future research studies.  The data collected with fuel additional research to strengthen our understanding of autism and provide meaningful information and resources to participants.

What is SPARK?

  • A landmark research partnership between the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), UNC, and 24 other clinical and research institutions across the United States.
  • The free online study’s objective is to speed up autism research and learn more about the causes and treatment of autism.
  • The goal of SPARK is to involve 50,000 people with autism and their biological family members.
  • Families are asked to share basic information about medical and family history and can choose to submit saliva samples (saliva kits are mailed to participants’ homes).

How to Get Involved in SPARK at UNC

  • Read about the study and register at
  • Consent to share information about yourself and/or your child with autism and agree to be recontacted for future studies (there’s no obligation to participate).
  • Share your family history, behavioral, and medical information.
  • Consent to provide a saliva sample and request the saliva collection kit (kits will be mailed to you with a prepaid mailer).
  • Complete online surveys.

Thank you for your interest in research at UNC. If you have questions about SPARK or need help with your SPARK account, please email