2021 Pilot Studies Program Information Session Webinar Slides (PDF).

2021 Pilot Studies Program Information Session Webinar Recording (mp4)

Overview

The Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Pilot Studies Program seeks proposals for innovative, high-impact, translational science projects with a focus on building interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams including investigators from the basic, clinical, and/or applied sciences. The program aims to improve population health by funding new projects that will allow investigators to develop and disseminate novel tools or methods and/or to generate sufficient preliminary data for a larger follow-on study. Successful pilot projects should address a research question that provides generalizable insights to help advance cutting-edge prevention practices, support translation of new treatments and cures for disease into clinical care, and increase the overall effectiveness and quality of health care and public health interventions – thereby improving the health and well-being of the public.

All applicants should have a preliminary hypothesis underlying the research and a defined plan and timeline for the publication and dissemination of all research results and for seeking future extramural funding. In support of collective action for health improvement, they should also have an integrated strategy for engaging stakeholders relevant to their proposed projects. Stakeholder engagement should be broadly-conceived to support inclusion in one or more parts of the research process.

In addition to individuals at Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center, eligible applicants include members of Tufts CTSI partner or collaborator institutions. Individuals and research teams may request up to $30,000 per award. To stimulate collaboration, research teams including investigators from two Tufts CTSI-affiliated institutions may request up to $45,000 per award and three institutions up to a maximum award amount of $60,000. Selected projects will be funded for one year, beginning May 1, 2021 and ending April 30, 2022, pending National Institutes of Health (NIH) approval.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for the Pilot Studies Program grant, the Principal Investigator (PI) must have a primary appointment or position at a Tufts CTSI academic, medical, not-for-profit, or community partner or collaborator organization. Applicant research teams may include collaborators who are and who are not affiliated with Tufts CTSI.

Request for Applications

The Tufts CTSI Pilot Studies Program seeks proposals for innovative, high-impact, translational science projects with a focus on building interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams. The program has a two-step application process that involves an initial submission of a Letter of Intent (LOI), due on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, and, if invited, a full proposal, due on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. The LOI submission period will begin on Monday, August 31, 2020.

Key Dates

  • Letter of intent submission period: begins Monday, August 31
  • Information webinars and Q&A sessions: Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 2:00 PM and Wednesday, September 16, 2020 at 11:00 AM (email pilots@tuftsctsi.org to register)
  • Letter of intent submission deadline: Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 11:59 PM
  • Application deadline: Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 11:59 PM (by invitation only)
  • Award announcement: January 2021

*New for 2021*

The 2021 Pilot Studies Program will accept proposals by invitation only.

To be considered, applicants will be required to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) presenting a concise and thought-out description of their ultimate proposal (up to two pages in length), not a preliminary exploration of a research idea.

The LOI will be used to pre-screen intended concepts to verify applicants’ eligibility, ensure the proposed research is in line with the mission of Tufts CTSI and the objective of the Pilot Studies Program for 2021, and identify potential reviewers.

Early submissions are welcome and highly encouraged. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their LOI submission within three business days. Eligible applicants will gain access to the application materials upon invitation.

The Letter of Intent submission period has ended.

Award Information

About the Program

The Pilot Studies Program is a funding opportunity supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It provides one-year awards in support of translational science projects that have the potential to answer important scientific questions and to develop novel research methods and approaches to address translational roadblocks. The program aims to improve population health by funding new projects that will allow investigators to develop and disseminate novel tools or methods and/or to generate sufficient preliminary data for a larger follow-on study. It prioritizes actionable research that improves health outcomes of the community and advances health equity for traditionally marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented populations. Consistent with the NCATS mission and local priorities, the program funds translational and clinical research across the full translational spectrum (T.5 to T4) rather than basic discovery research.

All applicants should have a preliminary hypothesis underlying the research and a defined plan and timeline for the publication and dissemination of all research results and for seeking future extramural funding. In support of collective action for health improvement, they should also have an integrated strategy for engaging stakeholders relevant to their proposed projects. Stakeholder engagement should be broadly-conceived to support inclusion in one or more parts of the research process.

Successful pilot projects should address a research question that provides generalizable insights to help advance cutting-edge prevention practices, support translation of new treatments and cures for disease into clinical care, and increase the overall effectiveness and quality of health care and public health interventions. They should strive to promote health equity to help improve the health and well-being of diverse populations, especially those who disproportionately experience persistent disparities.

Special Considerations for 2021

The 2021 Pilot Studies Program will give equal priority to COVID-19- and non-COVID-19-related research studies, welcoming applications in the broad domain of clinical and translational research including investigators from the basic, clinical, and/or applied sciences. Regardless of the focus area, all applicants will be asked to assert their ability to complete their proposed research within the award period despite possible COVID-19-related closures and/or associated restrictions on research activities. To ensure project relevance during the award period, those proposing research projects linked to the COVID-19 outbreak are encouraged to focus on the longer-term direct and indirect health effects and implications of the pandemic and the resulting measures taken to slow the spread of the virus.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for an award, applications must designate a Principal Investigator (PI) with a primary appointment or position at a Tufts CTSI partner or collaborator organization. Research teams may include other key personnel, including those not affiliated with Tufts CTSI. Proposed pilot studies should be innovative and have no current funding or only modest intramural or extramural support that will be enhanced by the pilot activities.

Award Period and Project Launch Requirements

Selected projects will be funded for one year from May 1, 2021 through April 30, 2022. Both project start and release of funds will be contingent upon receipt of all applicable local institutional Review Board (IRB) and/or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approvals and/or exclusion determination letters. In addition, projects involving human and/or animal subjects are required to comply with requirements for the NCATS Human Subject Research Prior Approval and/or NCATS Prior Approval for Planned Research Involving Live Vertebrate Animals. Please learn more about project launch requirements.

Award Amounts

Awards will be made to eligible individuals or research teams for up to $30,000 per award. To stimulate collaboration, research teams including investigators from two different Tufts CTSI-affiliated organizations may request up to $45,000 per award and three different organizations up to a maximum award amount of $60,000. Funds may only be used to cover direct costs that are necessary and reasonable to complete the proposed research project. For multi-site projects, they may be allocated across sites in accordance with project needs.

Complementary In-kind Support

In addition to direct funding, award recipients will be provided access to a robust array of complementary research resources and services as well as offered publication support.

  • Research Resources and Services: Award recipients will be provided ongoing pre- and post-award scientific and logistical support and help to address translational roadblocks that may arise. It will be offered by a support team co-led by Tufts CTSI research-active clinical faculty and staff.
  • Publication Support: Tufts CTSI will have funding available for journal fees, including publication processing and open access charges. Award recipients may request such support for one eligible publication per research project.
  • The Tufts CTSI Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) Support: Applicants and co-applicants with a primary position or faculty appointment at Tufts Medical Center (Tufts MC) or Tufts University (TU) may leverage the Tufts CTSI CTRC Voucher Program for an additional $5,000 of in-kind clinical research services. Eligible applicants may request such support (e.g., routine and specialized nursing, sample collection and processing, study coordination, regulatory assistance, medical administration, and use of clinical facilities and equipment) as part of their Pilot Studies Program application.

Eligibility Information

Principal Investigator

Eligible applicants include members of Tufts CTSI-affiliated organizations, which span academic partners, affiliated hospitals, for-profit and not-for-profit collaborators, and community-based organizations. The PI must have a primary appointment or position at a Tufts CTSI partner or collaborator organization.

Eligible Sites

Academic Partners and Collaborators

(PLEASE NOTE: all schools and centers of each academic partner are considered one site)

  • Brandeis University
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Northeastern University
  • RAND Corporation
  • The Jackson Laboratory
  • Tufts University
Clinical Partners and Collaborators
  • Baystate Medical Center
  • Lahey Hospital and Medical Center
  • Maine Medical Center
  • New England Baptist Hospital
  • Newton-Wellesley Hospital
  • Elizabeth’s Medical Center
  • Tufts Medical Center
For-profit and Not-for-profit Partners and Collaborators

(PLEASE NOTE: for-profit organization are eligible as participant sites, but they cannot receive funding)

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts Biotechnology Council
  • Novartis
  • Pfizer, Inc.
  • Tufts Health Plan
Community Partners and Collaborators
  • Action for Boston Community Development
  • Asian Community Development Corporation
  • Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence
  • Asian Women for Health
  • Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
  • Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation
  • Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center
  • Health Resources in Action
  • Museum of Science, Boston
  • New England Quality Care Alliance

Multi-Site Research Teams

Members of multi-site research teams must meet all Pilot Studies Program eligibility requirements. Each site of a multi-site research project must designate an investigator with a primary appointment or position at a Tufts CTSI partner or collaborator organization who will serve as a lead contact at that site. Research teams may also include collaborators who are not affiliated with Tufts CTSI. However, organizations of such collaborators will not be considered as a funded site for a multi-site proposal. Provided their involvement is necessary for the conduct of the project, applicants may earmark part of their budget for collaborator-supported research activities.

Foreign Component

Applicants proposing research involving a foreign component, as defined by NIH, are eligible to apply. However, they must provide a compelling justification for such research and/or involvement of a foreign component (e.g., performing a specific element or segment of a project outside of the U.S., with assistance of a collaborator employed by a foreign entity or a non-U.S. vendor, and/or with financial support or resources from a foreign entity). Furthermore, if selected, they will be required to receive the NCATS prior approval, whether or not funding is requested to support activities to be performed at a foreign site and/or by a foreign entity.

Returning Applicants

Past Tufts CTSI award recipients are welcome to re-apply to obtain funding for a new research project, but will not be considered for additional funding for a project previously awarded through the program. Lead PIs or Co-PIs who have received two Tufts CTSI pilot awards are not eligible to apply as key personnel for another award until five years from the end date of their last award. To be considered for new funding, returning applicants must comply with all prior award reporting requirements.

Application Process

Available Pre-award Resources and Services

Applicants are strongly encouraged, but not required, to work with the Tufts CTSI Navigators, the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design (BERD) Center, the Stakeholder and Community Engagement Team, the Recruitment and Retention Support Unit, the Informatics Team, and other Tufts CTSI service providers to enhance proposal development by advancing study design, ensuring translational capacity, fostering collaboration, and identifying infrastructure support. Please request a consultation by filling out our online form.

How to Apply

The 2021 Pilot Studies Program has a two-step application process that includes a brief LOI and, if invited, a full proposal. Both must be submitted via Tufts CTSI’s online submission portal.

  • Letter of Intent: To be considered for funding, applicants are required to submit an LOI that describes the proposed study, discusses its translational capacity, and details the composition of the research team. The LOI narrative should total no more than two pages in length. It should provide an overview of the proposed study, including a project narrative, a list of specific aims, and a description of how the proposed research will translate into direct impact on human health. It should also include a brief statement describing how the proposed research can be feasibly conducted during possible pandemic COVID-19-related closures and/or associated restrictions on research activities. LOIs will be accepted on a rolling basis through Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their submission within three business days.
  • Proposal: If determined that the research team is eligible to apply and proposed research is in line with the mission of Tufts CTSI and the objective of the Pilot Studies Program, primary applicant will be invited to submit a full proposal. Detailed application instructions and program-specific form templates will be available upon invitation before or on Monday, October 12, 2020. Full proposals must be submitted by no later than Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Incomplete and late submissions will not be accepted.

Application Review and Funding Decision

All complete applications will be reviewed and rated using the nine-point rating scale. The review process will follow the NIH scoring guidelines based on the following criteria: relevance, significance, innovation, investigators/stakeholders, environment, approach, and future plans.

Key funding considerations include the overall impact score, project feasibility (and/or adaptability to account for possible COVID-19-related closures and/or associated restrictions on research activities), clear strategy and intentional focus on health equity, budget justification, available funds, and distribution across the translational spectrum. Please learn more about the application review criteria and funding decision here.

Submission Components: From Letter of Intent to Project Launch

Pilot Studies Submission Components

Open larger image view (PDF)

Description of submission components table

Questions?

Please review our frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Need further assistance? We are here to help. Please contact us at pilots@tuftsctsi.org to ask a question or request the link to our virtual (Zoom) office hours scheduled for Tuesdays at noon, Wednesdays at 3:00PM, and Thursdays at 5:00PM.

Aviva Must, PhD, Director of the Pilot Studies Program

Daniel Jay, PhD, Associate Director of the Pilot Studies Program

Nadia Prokofieva, MA, Senior Project Manager