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2020-2021 Pilot Feasibility Grants

Pilot Funds 

Pilot funds for the 2020-21 academic year are now available to foster innovative and collaborative research in the field of digestive diseases. We anticipate that five total awards of $40,000 each will be made. While all projects require a focus on digestive diseases, several of the awards have additional requirements related to their joint support by SDDRC and other cooperating Centers and program with overlapping goals and objectives. The purpose of the jointly funded awards is to broaden the scope of the studies, promote promising early career faculty, and foster interdisciplinary collaborations.

The following one-year awards are available:

Digestive Diseases Innovative Awards (2 x $40,000)

These awards will focus on highly innovative research in the broad field of digestive diseases. Particular emphasis will be placed on promising projects from early career investigators (Assistant Professor Level) that address an important challenge in the field and have a high chance for generating novel hypotheses and feasibility data in support of new external funding. In addition, proposals by established investigators that tackle new topics and directions will be entertained, although it is expected that the applicant will make a strong case for the novelty of the proposed work relative to past studies. Studies can be in basic science, translational research, or clinical studies, but in all cases, the applications need to make clear how the available funds and time frame are generally adequate to achieve the goals of the projects.

Digestive Diseases Collaborative Awards (2 x $40,000)

This pair of awards will be given to two investigators for two independent but highly collaborative projects. The goal is to foster cross-disciplinary research in digestive diseases that brings together complementary approaches and technologies to address a major challenge in digestive health and diseases. Consistent with the collaborative nature of these awards, they are jointly supported by the SDDRC and the Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence (MOMI CORE) at UC San Diego. The MOMI CORE fosters research that generates a detailed understanding of human milk and its biological functions in the intestinal tract and beyond.

The applications should propose independent projects following the guidelines below, but identify a partner proposal and provide a separate joint justification of the expected collaborations and synergies between the two partners. While both applications will be independently evaluated for scientific potential and quality, a compelling collaborative rationale will greatly increase the funding chances for both awards. As a condition for these awards, at least one of them must conduct studies involving selected aspects of human milk biology or milk components and digestive health, while the other award must at least explain how the proposed studies are relevant to the understanding of human milk biology and digestive health, thereby facilitating productive interactions with the partner project.

Jon I. Isenberg Award (1 x $40,000)

With the generosity of the Hellman Family Foundation, as well as friends and colleagues of former Division Chief of Gastroenterology, the late Jon I. Isenberg, M.D., this award is intended to assist in the research of a scientist (M.D. and/or Ph.D.) in the early stages of their career (at the rank of Assistant Professor). The area of research should be broadly related to Dr. Isenberg's lifelong research interests including intestinal epithelial ion transport mechanisms, mucosal defense, peptic ulcer disease, and cystic fibrosis, as applied to the intestine, liver, or biliary system. This award stresses the application of basic science to develop new insights into mechanisms of human gastrointestinal disease. 
All applications will be considered for any of the eligible awards. Applicants do not need to decide which particular awards are most suitable for their project and application, with the exception of the Collaborative Awards as these have additional submission requirements (see below).


Investigators must have a faculty position (including Adjunct, Project and Research Scientist positions), at the time the award is made, at one of the four academic institutions that participate in the SDDRC (UC San Diego, La Jolla Institute for Immunology, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and The Salk Institute for Biological Studies). Applications can be submitted before faculty appointment, but the award will only be made after appointment. Current membership in the SDDRC is not a requirement. Investigators that are not affiliated with SDDRC will be named associate members upon receipt of an award.
Guidelines for Proposal
The following information must be submitted:

All applications

  1. Completed application form
  2. Abstract (30 lines maximum)
  3. Research Plan (NIH format following the current NIH instructions with sections on Significance, Innovation, Research Strategy; 4 pages maximum including any preliminary studies, but excluding references)
  4. Plans for Future Funding (1 page maximum; explain plans for future extramural funding, including agencies and mechanisms, and discuss in detail why and how the studies supported by the current award will be critical for facilitating such funding).
  5. References (no page limit)
  6. Biographical sketches of key personnel (NIH format; 5 pages maximum)

Collaborative Awards only
In addition to sections 1-6 above for each of the two partner applications, a joint justification (1 page, excluding references) is required to provide a rationale for the proposed collaboration, including any past and current interactions between the collaborators, expected synergies, predicted markers of collaborative success, and anticipated challenges.
Formatting of the application materials should follow standard NIH requirements (Arial 11 pt minimum, single-spaced, 0.5-inch page margins).

Post-award selection requirements
Upon selection of a project, additional requirements must be met before final awards can be made:
  • Budget and budget justification (NIH format, 1 page). Funds up to $40,000 can be requested for any legitimate expense of the project  proposed, including salary support for the PI and/or laboratory personnel, supplies, equipment and travel to professional meetings relevant to the proposal. Indirect costs are not payable on the awards.
  • Evidence of institutional approval for any animal and/or human studies if those are proposed.
  • For the Jon I. Isenberg Endowed Award, a brief (1/2 page) description of the investigator's research career to date and future career goals, and an explanation how the project relates to the goals of the endowed award.
  • Awardees are required to orally present their proposal and progress during the annual SDDRC symposium, which will be held on February 5, 2021

Application and relevant dates:

Use this form to apply:

Send completed application as a single pdf file to:

Submission deadline is Monday, November 16, 2020 at 11:59 pm

The expected start date for the awards is January, 2021.‚Äč