ICTS Pilot Studies Awards

Section 1

Purpose: To encourage early exploration of high-risk translational research ideas focused on emerging areas of basic and applied science with clear relevance to clinical application.

Rationale: The ICTS Pilot Studies Program is funded by the National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences (NCATS) at NIH. The ICTS Pilot Awards are designed specifically to support exceptionally innovative and/or unconventional research projects that have the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms.  As stated by NCATS: “Examples of pilot studies include feasibility studies, secondary analysis of existing data, development of new research methodology and/or new tools, dissemination of effective tools, methods, processes, or early development of new therapy/technology.”

The UCI ICTS is pleased to announce a new call for the Pilot Studies Program. Up to eight one-year awards in the amount of $25,000 will be conferred in this round. The estimated funding period is July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021.


Principal Investigators (PIs) must be full time UCI faculty from any school or discipline; junior and mid-career faculty are especially encouraged to apply, but established investigators pursuing novel research lines are also welcome. Faculty from the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and the Long Beach VA* are also encouraged to apply. If CHOC and VA applicants do not have a joint UCI faculty appointment, their proposals must have a UCI co-PI.

To be eligible to apply for Pilot Studies Awards, the Principal Investigator or co-Investigator MUST attend a workshop on general application preparation or one of the special-topic workshops offered by the ICTS. Workshops are currently scheduled for the end of August. Registration is required to attend, so please register for a workshop as space is limited. Additional workshops may be added in response to interest. 

To register: ICTS Pilot Workshop Registration

Investigators may only submit one application in which they are listed as PI or Co-PI. However, a PI can be on more than one grant if he/she is listed as a co-investigator.

Investigators who received a Pilot Studies Award from the ICTS in the prior year must take a full funding cycle break before applying again. For example, if you were funded as a PI for 2019, you cannot apply as a PI again for the 2020 pilot cycle; you must wait for the following 2021 pilot cycle to apply again.

*All awards to CHOC and VA will occur via a subcontract; no overhead costs will be provided.


Eligible Projects

Clinical Translational Science Projects, currently not funded and aimed at obtaining preliminary results for a full application for extramural funds, are considered eligible. Emphasis will be placed on innovation and transformative potential of submitted proposals. The content of proposals, while obviously linked to applicants’ current research, should demonstrate a clear evolution towards novel, relevant, and untested research areas.

A clinical translational science project is defined as any project aimed at accelerating the transition from discoveries arising from laboratory, clinical, or population studies into clinical applications. Note that in addition to traditional research studies, these awards are also open to proposals to pilot innovations in translational workforce development and training, new strategies for accelerating the research process, or new approaches to recruiting participants into clinical trials from challenging populations (e.g., patients in a NICU or underrepresented populations).

Owing to the short time-frame of the awards, no projects requiring an IND or an IDE will be considered for funding.

Application Process: Two Phase

Phase One: Letter of Intent (Unique Link Issued)

Application Opens: Monday, September 23, 2019

Deadline: Friday, October 11, 2019

A letter of intent is REQUIRED. Not all submitted LOI will advance to Phase Two for review.  

The letter of intent will be submitted via RedCAP and must include:

  • Project Title
  • Amount Requested (maximum allowable is $25,000)
  • Names of Principal Investigator(s) and Co-Investigators
  • Biosketch for Principal Investigator(s) (New NIH format)
  • Abstract (max 250 words)
  • Project Plan:
    • Study Hypothesis/Research Question: State clearly and concisely the research question and the significance of this work (max 200 words)
    • Evidence of feasibility: Briefly explain the project’s aims and objectives to be met within a 12-month timeframe (max 200 words)
    • Translational significance of the project: Explain how the project demonstrates translational research and why it is important (max 200 words)
    • Research Methods: Please address the source of the study data (humans, animals, archived samples, etc.) and provide a brief description of the study protocol: what is being done to whom, including where and by whom (max 200 words)
  • Additional Information:
    • Keywords: Please provide 3-5 keywords to best describe your study and type of expertise needed for providing a quality review.  Keywords can describe content and/or methodology

Phase Two: Full Proposal

Application Opens: Based on scoring of LOIs, selected applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal. Invitations will be issued on or before Monday, December 2, 2019.

Deadline: Friday, January 17, 2020

Documents and information submitted in the Letter of Intent phase will transfer to the full application. Please update any changes that have been made since submission.  All material must include the investigator’s name at the top right corner, and use a font no smaller than 11 pts, with margins no narrower than 0.5 inches.

In addition to the materials from the LOI (updated if necessary) the application must include:

  • Biosketches for co-Is (New NIH format)
  • Suggested Reviewers
  • Lay Summary (500 words max) written content explaining project to a general/non-scientist audience
  • Research Plan (5 pages max, plus references) must include:
    • Specific Aims
    • Significance (be sure to address the translational potential of the project)
    • Innovation
    • Approach
    • Plans for applying for extramural funding
  • ICTS Pilot Project Implementation Plan
  • Home department letter of support
  • Budget (itemized, 1 page maximum)
  • Budget Justification
    • Funds cannot be used to support the PI’s salary, computer purchases, or travel. Other personnel salaries are allowable.
    • No overhead will be provided for outside institutions
  • For junior faculty only (assistant professor or lower): Please name senior faculty mentor

For junior faculty (assistant professor or equivalent and lower): before funds are released, a senior faculty mentor from the awardee's home department must agree to act as a mentor (including general project supervision, participation in an initial milestone-setting meeting, and periodic progress report meetings).

Regulatory Approval: Please note that while having regulatory approval (IRB, IACUC) is not necessary at the time of submission, awarded funds will not be released, by NIH mandate, until such approval has been received. Because NIH does not allow carry-forward on these one-year awards, if all regulatory approvals have not been received 6 months after award date, the ICTS may withdraw the award.

Resubmissions: Applications that were not funded during a prior call for ICTS pilot awards may be resubmitted a second time by checking the appropriate box during the application process. Resubmissions will have the opportunity to address the criticisms raised during the review process; however, no additional space will be allowed for the rebuttal, which will have to be included in the 5-page limit of the research plan. A maximum of ONE resubmission will be allowed for each previously unfunded project.

Post-Award Project Support: Before funds are released, an activation meeting will be held with the awardee, a department financial analyst, and ICTS staff at which the team will review the project implementation plan and explain the Research Acceleration and Facilitation Team support that will be provided to the research team.

Application Review Process: Review criteria will include:

  • Significance and impact of the proposed research
  • Qualifications of the PI and research team
  • Innovation
  • Approach; Scientific strength of the research design
  • Scientific environment
  • Translational nature of the project
  • Project feasibility within the proposed time frame
  • Likelihood of generating extramural funding

The UCI ICTS participates in a national CTSA External Reviewer Exchange Consortium (CEREC) to improve fairness in the scientific review process and better match applicants with feedback from experts in their respective fields.  In submitting an application you agree to allow reviewers external to UC Irvine access to your application materials.

For more information, please contact Dr. Margaret Schneider at margaret.schneider@uci.edu or April Bagaporo at abagapor@uci.edu

To register for ICTS Workshop, ICTS Pilot Workshop Registration


Letter of Intent: Friday, October 11, 2019

Full Proposal (invited applicants): Friday, January 17, 2020

Notification Emails for Receipt of Proposal: A notification email indicating the receipt of your letter of intent or application will be sent within 24 hours of submission. If you have not received an email, please contact April Bagaporo (714-456-7524).