Published June 2, 2020
The yearly Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Translational Pilot Studies Program request for proposals gives researchers an opportunity to pursue pioneering, even world-changing projects. With local institutional support and an award from the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the program provides seed money to advance promising new technologies and therapeutics from the conceptual stage all the way to clinical trials.
Letters of intent are due by 9 a.m. on Monday, June 15, 2020. Applicants who are invited to submit full proposals will be notified on July 1, with the full proposals due on August 31. Funding will start on January 1, 2021.
“The Pilot Studies program benefits all researchers by providing seed funding for innovative projects with importance to the health of our community,” says Pilot Studies Program Director Brahm H. Segal, MD, Chair, Internal Medicine, and Chief, Infectious Diseases, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We give consideration to projects with investigators from different disciplines and projects that pair junior and senior investigators so that there’s built-in mentorship.”
Joseph P. Balthasar, PhD, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Executive Director of Research Initiatives, Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, says the impact of the Pilot Studies program for researchers is long-lasting, especially with respect to the pursuit of future funding opportunities.
“Having good ideas, and good training, is not sufficient to win funding from sponsors. To be successful through the competitive review process, it is necessary to demonstrate the feasibility of the research strategy and the promise of the approach,” Balthasar says. “Although the program benefits all researchers, this funding is particularly helpful to young investigators who have not had the opportunity to earn the trust of grant reviewers through their prior research, and who often have limited resources available to support new research ideas.”
This is the tenth round of translational pilot study awards since the program was established in 2010. To date, 83 projects from eight UB schools/colleges and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center have yielded 145 publications in peer-reviewed journals and $19 million in extramural funding.
The spring 2020 RFP has a new element, one dictated by the current pandemic. As Segal explains, this year’s RFP includes studies that address the impact of COVID-19.
“Because of the importance of COVID-19, this cycle we are giving specific consideration to applications related to COVID-19, including newer diagnostics, community outreach, data science, and therapies,” Segal says.
Balthasar explains that “all scientists are exploring opportunities to apply their skills and abilities to the development of new strategies to prevent, diagnose, and treat SARS-CoV-2 infections. This movement into a new area, with focus on a new disease, is exactly the situation where seed funding has the greatest value.”
He points to the more than 50 investigators within UB and Roswell Park who are pursuing projects to translate basic research findings for application to the COVID-19 outbreak as evidence of the timeliness of this year’s RFP.
“Funding from the Pilot Study program, with its rapid review mechanism, may help to speed the development of promising approaches at this critical time,” Balthasar says.
As in previous years, priority is also given to applications that address health care disparities in under-served or under-represented populations in the Western New York region and those with a team science approach which pair early-stage investigators with established investigators. It is important to note, however, that despite the new considerations given to COVID-19-related applications, the Pilot Studies program continues to seek applications in all other areas that will advance clinical and translational science.
LOIs are to be submitted, per the instructions in the RFP, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Researchers looking for advice on submitting a successful application are encouraged to read “Tips for Success in Obtaining Pilot Studies Funding,” a series of slides that were developed for and presented at the annual CTSI Pilot Studies Colloquium.
The CTSI Translational Pilot Studies Program is supported by the NIH [award number UL1TR001412] and by the following CTSI BTC partners: UB Office of the Provost; UB Office of the Vice President for Research; UB Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences; Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions; and Dean of the School of Nursing.