Pain Research Challenge

Virginia Kaufman Pain Research Challenge 2024

Pain Research Challenge 2024. Let's take pain out of the picture.


What is your solution to ease the burden of pain?

Pain is a major public health problem, and tackling it involves collaboration and creativity. The Virginia Kaufman Pain Research Challenge is a funding program to move innovative solutions for pain one step closer to impacting the lives of our community.

The program welcomes applications from diverse teams that address either physical or mental aspects of pain. This can includes the dynamics of pain, causes and alleviation of pain, and/or treatments to prevent or mitigate pain.

The Pain Research Challenge is sponsored by the Virginia Kaufman Endowment Fund, named after the prominent Pittsburgh advertising executive’s generous donation to the University of Pittsburgh. It is administered by the Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Innovation.

Key Dates

Round 1 Application Due:
Friday April 5, 2024 at 11:59PM

Notification to Advancing Projects:
Thursday May 9, 2024

Round 2 Application Due:
Monday June 3, 2024

Notification of Awards:
July 2024


Awards of $50,000 from the Virginia Kaufman endowment Fund will cover direct costs for a 12-month project led by a Pitt faculty member. Award periods begin following all regulatory and administrative approvals. Awardees will also receive in-kind CTSI project management support for the duration of their award period.


Scope: Projects must address a specific problem in the area of pain (acute or chronic, mental or physical pain). Projects that address mechanisms, diagnostics, and/or modalities of pain are acceptable. An emphasis will be placed on proposals that have a clearly-developed Path to Impact plan.

Team: The Principal Investigator (PI) must be a University of Pittsburgh faculty member; postdoctoral trainees and non-faculty level trainees in clinical training programs are not eligible to serve as PI. Study teams are encouraged to include cross-disciplinary collaborations, including co-Investigators from other institutions or partnerships with non-academic industry or community partners.

How to Apply:

Apply using CTSI’s Powered by PInCh® content management system.

Upon login, create a new project before uploading your team’s application. Project creation should only take a few minutes, with applicants asked to complete the following three fields before submission: Project Name, Short Description, and Project Summary.

Download the application template:

Round 1: One-page Letter of Intent

The Round 1 application is due within Powered by PInCh® on Friday, April 5, 2024, by 11:59 p.m.

Download and complete the one-page application template, which requires a character-limited response to each of the following categories: 

Project Proposal: Problem | Solution

Project Plan: Milestones | Team

Project Innovation: Novelty | Path to Impact | Overall Impact

Round 2:

Applicant teams will be notified and invited to submit a Round 2 application. The Round 2 application is due within Powered by PInCh® on Monday, June 3, 2024, by 11:59 p.m. The three components for the Round 2 application include:

Narrated slide presentation (My Pitt Video / Panopto)

Narrated slideshow via either PowerPoint or video recording (e.g., Zoom). Presentations may not exceed 20 slides and 7 minutes in length. All videos must be uploaded to My Pitt Video (Panopto), and linked within Powered by PInCh.

Note: The video must be uploaded to Panopto by the Principal Investigator (PI), who must be a University of Pittsburgh faculty member.

Presentations must include:

Project Proposal: Problem | Solution

Project Plan: Milestones | Team | Role of Award

Project Innovation: Novelty | Path to Impact | Overall Impact

How to make a narrated PowerPoint:

Budget and Budget Justification

Use the Budget & Budget Justification Template form to outline plans for the $50,000 award, 12-month award.

The budget will support direct costs only. Salary support reflects non-Federal fringe benefit rates. PI must have a minimum of 0.5% effort on the project (direct or cost shared). Funds may not be used for indirect costs, manuscript preparation or publication fees, or travel (except as required to collect data).

Please refer to the template for all additional instructions and requirements. Please direct any questions about allowable expenses to

Review Criteria

Project Proposal:

  • Problem: Does the proposal identify a critical barrier in the field? Is the project description clearly defined?
  • Solution: Does the proposed solution address the described problem? Is the solution clearly defined?
  • Communication: Does the proposal tell a clear, concise, and compelling story?

Project Plan:

  • Milestones: Does the project plan fit the scope of this 12-month, $50,000 award to ease the burden of pain?
  • Team: Does the team reflect the diverse expertise necessary to complete the project milestone?

Project Innovation:

  • Novelty: How unique is the proposed solution from the status quo? Does the solution shift current clinical or research paradigms to address an unmet need?
  • Path to Impact: Is there a clear and reasonable implementation plan for this solution to improve the health of individuals and/or communities?
  • Overall Project Impact: After successful development, will this solution clearly address the critical barrier in individual health, society, and/or biomedical knowledge?

Path to Impact & Intellectual Property

Path to Impact: Please see this CTSI guide for your Path to Impact plan.

We welcome applications from early-stage solutions – this section asks you to identify the project’s current stage of development along the Path to Impact continuum and define the macro-level steps needed to make an impact on the health of individuals, communities, and/or biomedical knowledge. For more developed solutions, align your application’s milestones with the immediate next steps of the Path to Impact continuum.

Intellectual Property: Before you share your ideas with outside parties or present your work publicly (conferences, publications, or media), we encourage you to submit an Invention Disclosure to the Innovation Institute. Please email us at if you would like to initiate intellectual property discussions or draft an Invention Disclosure.

For questions, please email

Click the button below to learn about past 
Pain Research Challenge Awardees!