Pilot Projects

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Read about the 2016 CTRI Pilot Project Recipients

View a list of past awardees

CTRI Pilot Projects

The call for applications for 2017 funding is now closed.

The Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) supports Pilot Projects that help fulfill the CTRI mission of developing clinical and translational research. Pilot Project Grants are one-year competitive awards (up to $30,000 or $50,000 – award amounts vary by category, see below) to provide funding for early stage projects. Pilot Projects are available to all members; funding priority is given to junior faculty members.

Available Funding Categories:

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

Clinical Research is conducted with human subjects or on material collected from humans, in order to broaden knowledge about mechanisms of disease, therapeutic interventions, or 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 Technology Research projects involve the development of novel technology for drug discovery, devices, diagnosis, -omics analysis, systems biology, or biomarker validation. Funding is not intended to support adaptation or modification of existing technology, such as flow cytometry, qPCR, ELISAs, etc., nor is it intended to support application of existing technology. A particular focus on biomarker or imaging modalities is anticipated, such as novel proteomics techniques or developing novel imaging agents. Proposals must include a clinical researcher to serve as co-investigator to assure disease relevance.

We strongly encourage proposals in the following topic areas (within either of the above funding categories):

  • Life Course Research—Life course research aims to elucidate biological, behavioral, and psychosocial processes that operate across an individual’s life course, or across generations, to influence the risk of disease development or prognosis. These grants include research concentrating on one of the following:
    • Biologic pathways and mechanisms by which proximal and distal factors operate and interact in the production and consequences of illnesses over the life span.
    • Clinical emphasis on best practices for developing and sustaining multi-disciplinary teams that bridge developmental transitions throughout the life course. Creating new collaborations between Pediatrics, the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, the Center for Lifespan Research, the Center for Promotion of Maternal Health and Infant Development, the Women's Health Center of Excellence and other units will be included in review criteria to encourage formation of multi-disciplinary teams.
  • Improving and Streamlining Clinical Research Processes—This topic area will explore and test ways to increase workflow efficiency and improve the processes in clinical research, such as optimal utilization of newly developed informatics tools for assessing cohort exploration, participant recruitment, data management and study oversight and increasing efficiency of regulatory reviews. 
  • "Science of Team Science" and "Integrating Research and Clinical Care" —This topic area will focus on determining how to best identify potential collaborators and establish multi-disciplinary teams of researchers, clinicians, community and industry partners that can more rapidly move research discoveries to health care. This topic area will also include developing best practices for integrating "omics" data into clinical care and the electronic health record.

Award Information

Funds must be spent between April 1, 2017 and March 30, 2018. All funds not spent by the end date of the Pilot Project award will be returned to the CTRI. No extensions can be granted. IRB approval must be obtained ASAP thereafter notice of intended award. No funds can be awarded until there is local IRB approval and secondary NCATS approval.

CTRI Pilot Projects are also eligible for "in-kind" vouchers. The vouchers can be used for CTRI services only, including those related to the clinic, biostatistics, coordinators, and lab. Applicants are permitted to request up to $5,000 in vouchers in addition to up to $30,000 (or $50,000 for Innovative Technology Research proposals) for other aspects of their proposals.

CTRI Pilot Project proposals that include human neuroimaging will be supported by the Center for Functional MRI (CFMRI) for one scan hour (in the form of a pilot hour) for every two scan hours supported by the Pilot Project grant. Other details will follow the policies of the CFMRI. This generous collaborative arrangement leverages additional research support for clinical, translational, and innovative technology pilot projects for CTRI investigators using neuroimaging methodologies.

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


Applications are received in two stages. Stage 1 applications are now closed.

  1. The first stage requires a 500-word abstract that will be scored.
  2. The second stage is by invitation only based on review of the 500-word abstract. A five-page application is required, which will be scored according to modified NIH 9-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 CTRI scientific review; if this is not available your application will be withdrawn for consideration during that cycle.

Application Deadline, Notices of Awards, and Funding Cycle

First Stage Application Deadline: June 30, 2016 @ 5:00 p.m. PT

Second Stage, by invitation only: Notification of invitation anticipated mid-September, 2016

Second Stage Application Deadline: November 18, 2016 @ 5:00 p.m. PT

Notice of Awards: Early January, 2017.

Funding Cycle: April 1, 2017 – March 30, 2018

Eligibility and Project Requirements

  • Priority will be given to junior full-time faculty proposing collaborative projects.
  • Postdoctoral Fellows and Project Scientists are not eligible.
  • Principal Investigators for these pilot awards must be members of the CTRI. Applicants may join the CTRI shortly before submission and still be eligible.
  • Principal Investigators must be full-time faculty members at UC San Diego or one of the UC San Diego partner institutions including San Diego State University, Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, Rady Children's Hospital, and Palomar Pomerado Health.
  • 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 for 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 and programmatic review. The following criteria will be used in evaluating these proposals:

  1. Significance of the research and its translational relevance
  2. Scientific quality
  3. Feasibility to complete the project in one year
  4. Probability that the work will yield important new information, technology, or service and/or yield new federal funding
  5. Qualifications of the Principal Investigator and collaborators and inclusion of multidisciplinary team members

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 CTRI or using CTRI resources must cite the CTRI as a contributing source of support and indicate the NIH CTSA grant title and number: University of California, San Diego, NIH Grant UL1TR001442. If a project is required to be registered at Clinicaltrials.gov, the Principal Investigator is responsible for doing so before beginning the research. CTRI staff can help investigators with this process.

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/.

How To Apply

How to Apply for Stage 1

  1. 500-word abstract
  2. NIH biographical sketches, including other support with yearly direct costs, for the significant participants
  3. 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.

  1. Five-page proposal description should follow NIH proposal criteria:
    1. Specific Aims
    2. Background and significance
    3. Preliminary studies (if applicable)
    4. Research design and methods
    5. Literature cited (not included in the five-page limit)
  2. A detailed budget with budget justification. 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, it will need a thorough justification. As a reminder, these are pilot projects to obtain preliminary data.
  3. 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).
  4. Paragraph on community relevance (maximum 100 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

How to Submit your Application:

The application is available online.

You must register as an applicant. Do this at least a week prior to the submission deadline. You will be sent an email notifying you of your username and password after you register.

Don't wait to the last minute to submit as the system may be busy!!!

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