Pilot Grant

The first stage of the applications for 2015 is now closed.

Pilot Project Grants are one-year competitive cash awards (up to $30,000 or $50,000 – award amounts vary by category) to provide funding for early stage projects. Funding priority is given to junior faculty members. Three award categories, Pilot Clinical Studies, Pilot Translational Studies and Innovative Science Pilot Projects, are offered. The Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) solicits applications from all members, and particularly from junior faculty, for Pilot Projects that help fulfill the ACTRI mission of developing clinical and translational research. Our Pilot Project program aligns with the goal of the National Institutes of Health to promote progress from the "bench to bedside to community and practice and back."

Available Funding Categories

  • Clinical Research (up to $30,000)
  • Translational Research (up to $30,000)
  • Innovative Science Research (up to $50,000)

Clinical Research, according to the NIH definition, is research conducted with human subjects or on material collected from humans, in order to broaden knowledge about mechanisms of disease, therapeutic interventions, clinical trials, or to develop new technology. Clinical research also includes epidemiological and observational studies, behavioral studies, community interventions, and research on outcomes and health services.

Translational Research projects are focused on applying basic research discoveries to the understanding of human disease pathogenesis or development of novel diagnostics or treatment modalities, including cell-based and other pre-clinical models.

Innovative Science Research is defined as projects that do either of the following: (1) develop new technology to assess disease susceptibility, pathogenesis, or severity, and which could be applicable to clinical research or therapeutics. Funding is not intended to support adaptation or modification of existing technology, such as flow cytometry, qPCR, ELISAs, etc. A particular focus on biomarker or imaging modalities is anticipated, such as novel proteomics techniques or developing novel imaging agents. Proposal must include a clinical researcher to serve as co-investigator to assure disease relevance. (2) Uses "omics" methods and data – in addition to family history, lifestyle, and environmental factors – to understand health and disease and customize health management. By using these data in addition to clinical information, more accurate predictions can be made about a person's susceptibility of developing disease, the course of disease, and response to treatment.

Projects that utilize the ACTRI Center for Clinical Research are especially encouraged.

The number of grants to be awarded depends on the quality of the proposals and current ACTRI funding levels. Funds must be spent between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016. All funds not spent by the end date of the Pilot Project award (March 31, 2016) will be returned to the ACTRI. No extensions can be granted. Investigators must therefore have IRB approval in place before the beginning of the funding cycle so that spending of pilot award funds can begin as soon as possible.

PLEASE NOTE: As part of its Pilot Projects funding mechanism, the ACTRI has developed a funding collaboration with several UCSD organizations such as the UCSD Center for Functional MRI (CFMRI). For ACTRI Pilot Project proposals that include human neuroimaging, the CFMRI will support one scan hour (in the form of a pilot hour) for every two scan hours supported by the Pilot Project grant. Other details regarding the assignment and usage of these pilot hours will follow the policies of the CFMRI. This generous collaborative arrangement leverages additional research support for clinical, translational, and innovative technology pilot projects for ACTRI investigators using neuroimaging methodologies.

Other areas of research that may be eligible for Pilot Project partnering funds include stem cells, diabetes, and aging. In most instances, these partnerships will enable the funding of additional grants (rather than more funding for a particular grant). The review committee will determine suitability for partnering.

We also encourage collaboration with other CTSA-funded institutions. If you are considering this type of collaboration, please contact Dr. Deborah Spector for further information.

Applications will be received in two stages:

The first stage requires a 500-word abstract which will be scored.

The second stage is by invitation only based on scores received on the 500-word abstract. A five-page application is required, which will be scored according to modified NIH nine-point scoring guidelines that emphasize the future external funding potential of the investigator(s) and the project. Please submit your IRB application at the same time as submission of your second-stage application. We will require evidence that your application is slated for IRB review prior to ACTRI scientific review; if this is not available your application will be withdrawn for consideration during that cycle. Investigators must have IRB approval in place before the beginning of the funding cycle so that spending of pilot award funds can begin as soon as possible.

Application Deadline, Notices of Awards, and Funding Cycle

First Stage Application Deadline: October 31, 2014, 5:00 p.m. PT

Second Stage, by invitation only: Notification of invitation December 19, 2014 (on or about)

Second Stage Application Deadline: January 30, 2015, 5:00 p.m. PT (on or about; will be confirmed)

Notice of Awards: March 6, 2015

Funding Cycle: April 1, 2015 ‐ March 31, 2016

Eligibility and Project Requirements

  • Priority will be given to junior full-time faculty proposing collaborative projects
  • Principal Investigators for these pilot awards must be members of the ACTRI. Applicants may join the ACTRI shortly before submission and still be eligible. To join, please click here.
  • Principal Investigators must be full-time faculty members at UCSD or one of the UCSD partner institutions including SDSU, Salk, Sanford Burnham, J. Craig Venter, LIAI, Rady Children's Hospital, and Palomar Pomerado. Postdoctoral Fellows and Project Scientists are not eligible.
  • Previous awardees are not eligible to reapply for one year.
  • Only one pilot proposal may be submitted by a Principal Investigator per funding category.
  • Full professors are NOT eligible to be Principal Investigators unless they are entering a new line of research. Proposals cannot overlap with or be a logical extension of ongoing research. In general, proposals from full professors who have greater than $350,000/year in current funding will receive lower priority.
  • All investigators selected to receive funding will be required to submit a six-month progress report (including an in-person presentation) and a one-year Final Progress Report at the end of the funded project. An additional report one year later will also be required. This report will consist of a detailed description of progress to date and a listing of all submitted publications and grant applications (pending or funded), meeting abstracts, and seminars relating to the pilot project.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications should be well-written, precise, and succinct. Applications will be subject to both scientific (by the ACTRI Review Committee) and programmatic review. The following criteria will be used in evaluating these proposals:

  • Significance of the research and its translational relevance
  • Scientific quality
  • Feasibility to complete the project in one year
  • Probability that the work will yield important new information, technology, or service and/or yield new funding
  • Qualifications of the Principal Investigator and collaborators

Presentations and Publications

Awardees are expected to publish their findings in scholarly peer‐reviewed journals and present their research at professional meetings. All publications, grants, and presentations resulting from research funded by the ACTRI or using ACTRI resources must cite the ACTRI as a contributing source of support and indicate the NIH CTSA grant title and number: University of California, San Diego, NIH grant #5UL 1TR000100.

If a project is required to be registered at Clinicaltrials.gov, the Principal Investigator is responsible for doing so before beginning the research. Investigators are responsible for submitting any peer‐reviewed journal articles resulting from research funded by this award to PubMed Central, the NIH digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. See http://publicaccess.nih.gov/.

Budget Guidelines

All guidelines pertaining to allowable expenses on federal grants will be applicable for these awards. In addition, no funding will be provided for travel, clerical help, office supplies, books and subscriptions, graduate student support and tuition remission, or publication expenses. It is not expected that findings from these awards will be ready for presentation during the funding period. If equipment is budgeted ($5,000 minimum cost), it will need a thorough justification. As a reminder, these are pilot projects to obtain preliminary data.

How To Apply

How to Apply for Stage 1

  • 500-word abstract
  • NIH biographical sketches, including other support with yearly direct costs, for the significant participants
  • The abstract page from all ongoing funded and pending research proposals

How to Apply for Stage 2

Stage 2 applications are by invitation only based on scores received for Stage 1 applications.

  • 5-page proposal description should follow NIH proposal criteria:
    • Specific Aims
    • Background and Significance
    • Preliminary Studies (if applicable)
    • Research Design and Methods
    • Literature Cited (not included in the 5-page limit)
  • A detailed budget with budget justification
  • IRB applications must be submitted at the same time as the Stage 2 submission, and should provide evidence of IRB (HRPP) pending review (e.g., HRPP # for the project).
  • Paragraph on community relevance (maximum 175 words) that includes the project title and is understandable at an eighth grade reading level (non-scientist level reviewer). Paragraph should answer the following question "How important is funding this research to improving human health, either in the near or distant future?" Do not include your name, as this paragraph will get a blinded review.

Applications should adhere to the following formatting specifications:

  • 11‐point Arial font
  • Single‐spaced
  • 0.5 inch margins on all sides
  • 8 ½" x 11" (i.e. standard size) paper
  • Number all pages
  • No appendices are allowed

Please see list of Pilot Grant.

Please contact Murray Stein MD, MPH or (858) 534-6451; or Kathleen Kennedy at or (858) 657-5143 with any questions about this RFA or the application process.