The Virginia Kaufman Pain Research Challenge

What is your solution to ease the burden of pain?


The Virginia Kaufman Pain Research Challenge is a funding program to advance ideas and solutions addressing problems in the area of pain.

Pain is a major public health problem and tackling it involves collaboration and creativity. The Pain Research Challenge is seeking innovative solutions that address either physiological or psychological aspects of pain, including 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 a prominent Pittsburgh advertising executive, and administered by the Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Pittsburgh.

Key Dates

Round 1 Application Due:
Monday, February 15

Notification to Advancing Projects:
Friday, March 12

Round 2 Application Due:
Monday, April 19

Notification of Awards:


Award funding of $50,000 is available to cover direct costs for a 12-month project, beginning when all regulatory and administrative approvals have been received. Each awardee will also receive CTSI project management support for the duration of their award period. 


Team: 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. Study teams should include cross-disciplinary collaborations. Co-Investigators may be from other institutions. Partnerships with non-academic community partners are acceptable.

Scope: Projects must address a specific problem in the area of acute or chronic pain. Solutions can address either physiological or psychological aspects of pain, including the dynamics of pain, causes and alleviation of pain, and/or treatments to prevent or mitigate pain. Projects that address mechanisms, diagnostics, and/or modalities of pain are acceptable. An emphasis will be placed on early stage proposals that have a clear path to impact.

How to Apply:

CTSI uses the Powered by PInCh® contest management system to collect and review all project submissions. When applicants first log in, they will be required to create a new project before they are able to upload their submission. Project creation should only take a few minutes; applicants will be asked to complete the following three fields before being able to submit: project name, short description, and project summary. 

Round 1:

The Round 1 application is due on February 15, 2021 by 11:59 p.m.

Download and complete the one-page application template which requires a response to each of the following categories:  Problem, Solution, Novelty, Impact, Project Plan, and Team.

Each response is limited to 350 characters (with spaces) or approximately 50 words, and therefore, needs to be concise.

Note: 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.

Download the application template:

Round 2:

Projects selected to advance to Round 2 are invited to submit a narrated slideshow presentation along with a budget and budget justification. All materials must be submitted as a single ZIP file through the Powered by PInCh® contest management system before April 19, 2020 by 11:59 p.m.

A. Narrated slide presentation

  • A file of slides with a voice recording is required. This can be a narrated PowerPoint or video recording (e.g., Zoom). Presentations should not exceed 20 slides and should not be more than seven minutes in length.
  • The presentation must include and address the following
    • Project title
    • Problem statement
    • Solution description/aims
      • Approach/methodology
      • Significance
      • Innovation
      • Current stage of development (i.e., any preliminary data).
    • Team introduction (include name, affiliation, discipline/department for each team member)
    • Role of the award (in the process of developing your solution)
    • Path to impact plan (briefly describe a roadmap for the eventual dissemination of results and how the project will inform progression along the continuum to impacting individuals, communities, and populations)

How to make a narrated PowerPoint:

B. Budget and Budget Justification

  • A budget on form PHS 398 and a corresponding single-page budget justification for a $50,000 award over a 12-month award period. The budget justification should include sufficient detail for reviewers to assess whether appropriate resources have been requested. Justification must be provided for any equipment item costing more than $5,000.
  • The monies awarded will support direct costs only. Funds may be used for salary support for the PI or any co-investigator/collaborator. Salary support of students and staff can also be included. Any salary support requested in a submitted budget should reflect non-Federal fringe benefit rates. Note, effort is required of the PI and must be reflected on the budget page. The minimum is 0.5%. This effort should be cost shared by the department or other entity. Reviewers understand that this may be a small proportion of effort given the size of the award.
  • Funds may not be budgeted for: indirect costs, manuscript preparation or publication fees, travel (except as required to collect data). Personal computer purchase will be approved only when it can be demonstrated that the computer is essential for the proposed work. If you have questions about the budget and allowable expenses, please email us at

Download PHS 398 Form:

Review Criteria

Entries for the Pain Research Challenge will be reviewed primarily on the following criteria:

  • Significance: Does the project address an important problem or critical barrier in the field?
  • Team: Does the team involve a cross-disciplinary collaboration(s), and is it well suited, sufficient, and able to conduct the project?
  • Innovation: Does the project propose novel concepts, methods, instrumentation, or interventions? Does the project challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms?
  • Feasibility/Approach: Are the strategies, methods, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Are the personnel, equipment, and other physical resources available to perform the proposed research within the time frame allotted?
  • Impact: Is there a path for the project to change concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field? The likelihood that this project can exert a sustained, powerful influence on health and well-being.

Learn about previous 
Virginia Kaufman Pain Research Challenge awardees.

Important Dates:

Round 1 Open Application Period:  Monday, January 6
Round 1 Application Due Date: Monday, February 17 at 5 p.m.
Announcement of Advancing Projects: Monday, March 16
Round 2 Application Due Date: Monday, April 20 at 5 p.m.
Announcement of Awards: Tuesday, May 19

Learn about previous 
Pain Research Challenge awardees.



For questions, please email