Published November 23, 2021
The University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Center for Biomedical Imaging (CBI) Pilot Studies Program offers a new opportunity for researchers looking to embark on innovative imaging translational research and generate preliminary data for grant applications.
The unique program, partially supported by the CBI under the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), will provide up to 100 imaging hours “at no cost” on the 9.4T and PET/CT scanners located at the Clinical and Translational Research Center. The CBI anticipates that it will support three pilot projects with intended durations of one year. No clinical trials beyond phase IIA will be supported by the program.
Proposed projects must:
Proposed projects will be given preference if they address health disparities in underserved or underrepresented minority populations and rare diseases in Western New York; use the CBI structural/functional imaging capabilities to study post-COVID-19 associated sequelae and comorbidities; and/or pair “early stage” (by NIH definition) investigators with established investigators (i.e., principal investigators who have a history of substantive extramural research funding), thus providing a built-in mentoring system for KL2 scholars.
An information session for prospective applicants will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, December 6, featuring CBI Core Director Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology and Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Department of Neurology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; CBI Technical Director Ferdinand Schweser, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Jacobs School; and CBI Director of Computational Analysis Michael G. Dwyer III, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology and Biomedical Informatics, Department of Neurology, Jacobs School. Register here to attend the virtual information session.
In addition to the goal of assisting investigators in creating preliminary data toward grant applications, Zivadinov explains that the program seeks to improve clinical research and design; to contribute to studies that can lead to development of validation of novel, clinically applicable devices, biomarkers, and analytical methods that will advance clinical and translational research; and to promote multidisciplinary collaborations.
“Applicants should be able to complete their project in one year and obtain some data that they can publish or present, and that will help them obtain funding,” Zivadinov says. “The ultimate success would be if we have an investigator come back a few years down the road with a funded study. I think this will be a real pathway.”
While the program is open to investigators with imaging experience, Zivadinov also sees the program as an opportunity to engage early stage investigators who have never done imaging and also researchers who seek to investigate health disparities. While researchers who are studying economically disadvantaged communities may not have used imaging before, Zivadinov explains that “maybe imaging in their case could be helpful to address some of the of the problems they are seeing.”
“If you do not already have a grant for imaging, it is extremely difficult to do a serious data acquisition that could give you pilot data for a grant,” Schweser says. “So, the thought came up that we could run pilot studies and offer the scan time for free to help investigators generate preliminary data to be successful with their grant applications. That is a key reason why this pilot program was designed.”
Zivadinov and Schweser stress that this is not a full pilot research program supporting the entirety of a project. Rather, it supports imaging alone. Still, Schweser says “we aim to provide support along the whole way, including the grant application and publication processes.”
In terms of review criteria, Zivadinov believes innovation will be key. As he puts it, “We would like to do ideas that have never been done.” Adds Schweser, “We are encouraging investigators to submit small high-risk, high-reward projects for which other funding mechanisms wouldn’t work.”
“This is a new opportunity that will enable investigators to expand their research to include imaging, which is a powerful translational research tool,” says CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD. “The CBI does a great job in providing expert support through the whole process.”
Reviews of the proposals will be conducted by CBI technical and faculty personnel, independent imaging core steering committee, and external reviewers.
Letters of Intent are due by 9 a.m. on February 1, 2022. All applicants will be notified by March 1 with a decision as to whether or not their proposal has been selected to move forward to the second tier of the application process. The due date for full proposals is April 30, and all applicants will be notified by June 1 with a decision as to whether or not their proposal has been selected for funding.
For additional details, including eligibility criteria, application and review process, and complete timeline, see the full Request for Proposals found on the CTSI website.