Biomedical Modeling Pilot Awards


The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Pittsburgh is now seeking applications for the Biomedical Modeling Pilot Awards. These awards support new research that combines experimental approaches with predictive mathematical or computational models to improve understanding of health, medicine, and disease. The goal of this program is to establish and strengthen the role of quantitative modeling in clinical and translational research. Projects funded by the program are expected to involve trans-disciplinary collaborations between translational investigators and quantitative modelers.

Examples of projects that might fit this opportunity include:

  • Predicting the economic impact of disease epidemics through simulation.
  • Using mathematical approaches to identify disease-specific pathway components.
  • Computationally modeling the mechanics of blood flow or tissue damage.
  • Identifying drug-target interactions through molecular simulation.

Projects that are not suitable include analysis of experimental datasets using common techniques and development of tools or algorithms without direct biological application.

Key Dates

Application Deadline
Tuesday, December 1, 2020 by 11:59 p.m.

Notification to Awardees
Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Anticipated Start of Funding
Monday, February 1, 2021

Funding Information

Award funding of up to $25,000 is available to cover direct costs; no indirect support will be provided. The award period will last for six months, beginning when all regulatory and administrative approvals have been received. The Biomedical Modeling pilots do not have any mechanism for no-cost extensions; any funds that are not spent during the award period will be forfeited.

Before any funding can begin, awardees must provide documentation of all necessary regulatory approvals (IRB, IACUC, hSCRO, IBC, CORID, etc.). Once regulatory documentation is provided, awarded projects will undergo an administrative review from NCATS, which may take up to 30 days. Funding cannot begin until projects have been approved by NCATS. Because of this, all applicants are strongly encouraged to have the necessary regulatory documents ready for submission.

Who Can Apply?

The Principal Investigator (PI) must be a University of Pittsburgh faculty member; postdoctoral trainees and trainees in clinical training programs are not eligible to serve as PI. Faculty members on early-career training awards or clinical research scholars (i.e., recipients of K-series or similar career development grants) are eligible. New PIs are strongly encouraged, but submissions from established investigators will be accepted if there is clear evidence that the pilot project represents a distinctly new direction from their previously funded work.

Study teams that involve cross-disciplinary collaborations are strongly encouraged. Co-investigators may be from other universities; however, CTSI’s primary mission is to promote research at the University of Pittsburgh, so applicants should justify extensive off-campus collaboration. Partnerships with non-academic community partners are also acceptable.

How to Submit

Applications should be combined into a single PDF file. The complete application should be loaded onto the Powered by PInCh® site before the application deadline. Additional materials or supplemental materials cannot be accepted after the deadline and will not be reviewed. Use a font size no smaller than Arial 11 and 0.5-inch page margins.


Using the Powered by PInCh® Submission Platform

CTSI uses the Powered by PInCh® grant submission platform to collect and review all pilot project submissions. If applicants have not previously used this system, they will be required to create a new project before they are able to upload their PDF submission. Project creation should only take a few minutes. Register the project in the system by providing the following information:

  • A title for the project (50-character limit)
  • A short description (200-character limit) of the project
  • A brief project summary (250-word limit) that should match the abstract provided in the PDF submission

These fields are used primarily for internal reference and can be edited after the project has been registered.

If you have any questions while using the system or encounter any errors while submitting, please contact Will Hierholzer, CTSI Pilot Funding Core Administrator, at or 412-282-3845.

Applications should have the following sections, and each section should begin on a new page.

A. Scientific Abstract (250-word limit): Provide a brief summary of your proposal.

B. Research Plan (five-page limit, including tables and figures): This section should include elements from a traditional NIH proposal (Specific Aims, Significance, Innovation, Approach) to best allow reviewers to address the review criteria (below).

C. References (no page limit): Literature cited does not count toward the five-page limit.

D. Budget with Budget Justification (no page limit): Use PHS 398 Forms Pages 4 and 5. The Budget Justification should include sufficient detail for reviewers to assess whether appropriate resources have been requested. Grant funds may not be budgeted for salary support for the PI or faculty collaborators, although effort is required of the principal investigator and must be reflected on the budget page. This effort should be cost-shared by the department or other entity that will support such effort. Any salary support requested in a submitted budget should reflect federal fringe benefit rates. Any requested equipment, including computing devices, must be explicitly justified as critical to the execution of the proposed research. Please note that funds cannot be budgeted for publication fees or for travel, except as required to collect data.

If an award is made, a budget meeting will be held between principal investigators, their respective research administrators, and financial administrators from the CTSI. If necessary, adjustments to the requested budget will be made at that meeting. These pilots do not have mechanisms to allow for no-cost extensions.

E. Proposal Timeline (up to half a page): Describe milestones and timeline for completion of the project. These milestones are critical for the pilot program, because all awards must be expended during the six-month award. The CTSI Pilot program does not have mechanisms to allow no-cost extensions. In the event an award is made, investigators should immediately confer with CTSI staff if any delay in initiation or completion of the project is anticipated.

F. Human and/or Animal Subjects (no page limit): NIH supported pilot awards must address Protection of Human Subjects, Adequacy of Protection Against Risks, Data and Safety Monitoring Plans, Inclusion of Women and Minorities, and Inclusion of Children.

Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) approval is not required prior to submission. However, HRPO approval is required for all projects involving human subjects before NCATS will approve project funding. Similarly, projects involving animal subjects do not need to have approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before applying, but awardees will need to receive approval prior to the start of funding.

In this section, applicants must describe any human and/or animal subject issues, as well as the sources of materials that will be obtained from human subjects. If human subjects are involved, provide a description of their involvement and characteristics, specific risks to subjects who participate, and protection against those risks. Reviewers may consider whether significant delays in approval are an anticipated barrier for project completion when selecting projects. Evidence of prior or ongoing HRPO / IACUC review is encouraged. Similarly, this section should discuss if other special regulatory approval is required prior to funding: Human Stem Cell Research Oversight (hSCRO), Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC),  Committee for Oversight of Research Involving the Dead (CORID), Radiation Safety Office (RSO), etc.

G. NIH Biosketches (no page limit): Include biosketches for the Principal Investigator and key members of the research team. Please use the current NIH format (see examples and templates here).

Review Criteria

It is a requirement that review of CTSI Pilot proposals should address the NIH review criteria. Reviewers will score final applications on an NIH scale (1-9) in the domains of Significance, Investigators, Innovation, Approach, and Environment.   Special emphasis will be given to a rating of the Overall Impact of the proposed project.

NIH Review Criteria:

  1. Overall Impact: The likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field.
  2. Significance: Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field?
  3. Investigators: Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited, sufficient, and able to conduct the project?
  4. Innovation: Does the project shift current research or does the clinical practice paradigms use novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?
  5. Approach: Are the strategies, methods, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? 
  6. Environment: Are the personnel, equipment, and other physical resources available to the investigators to perform the proposed research within the time frame allotted?