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What do we do?

The Pilot Research Project Core solicits, evaluates, and supports new and innovative feasibility studies for investigators interested in collaborating with the UIUC Neuroproteomics and Neurometabolomics Center on Cell-Cell Signaling. Our Core (and Center) is committed to fostering the success of promising young investigators new to either our ‘omics measurement capabilities or to addiction research, and we also encourage established researchers to explore new directions in substance abuse research. Selected pilot projects have access to the considerable Center resources available through our scientific cores—Sampling and Separation, Molecular Profiling and Characterization, and Bioinformatics, Data Analytics and Predictive Modeling—to generate the data required for continued research and for potential longer-term support.

Current Pilot Research Projects

Jordan McCall, Assistant Professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Single-cell Metabolomics.

Technology Development Collaboration with Agilent: Miniaturization of CE Sampling for Quantitative Mass Spectrometry.

How do I submit a research proposal?

Interested investigators should first contact Dr. Elena Romanova via email and include a brief description of the proposed project. Applicants may propose feasibility studies to explore how to incorporate ‘omics data into their research, or to start a new direction that fits the NIDA and Center research areas. To improve overall Center measurement and informatics capabilities that will benefit multiple users, the Pilot Core will also support small technical, methodological, or conceptual developments from staff and current Center investigators. Pilot Projects must align with our overall Center goals, demonstrate feasibility, have the potential for achieving high impact results, serve as an initial or background study that can inform larger follow-up studies, and be completed within one year. Applications will be subject to rigorous within-Center evaluation for scientific and technical merit (significance, approach, innovation, expertise) and the likelihood that the project will lead to important information and future long-term funding for substance abuse research.

If invited to submit a full proposal, applications for the next round of funding will be accepted from February 1 – February 29, 2024; successful applicants will be notified in April. Applications must follow the PHS 398 format: a title page, project summary, specific aims, and a research proposal (limited to three pages) that addresses the areas of significance, innovation, and approach (literature cited does not count toward the page limit).  The major item provided to the successful projects is the Center resources in terms of expertise and measurement science.  In addition, a small budget in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 is possible for other expenses. Lastly, an NIH biosketch is also required. An approved vertebrate animal protocol must be included if appropriate.

In addition, the applicant must agree to the terms of a Pilot Project in our Center, which includes participating in two Center webinars, creating a short midterm and final report, and agreeing to follow all required Federal and NIH guidelines, as well as the data management plans of the Center.

The following criteria will be implemented for internal review of the candidate projects:

Eligibility: self-contained biological experiments that represent a new research trajectory, and to which our technologies can be seamlessly folded-in for added insight.
NIDA-relatedness: proposed research must focus on topics related to NIDA’s goals and objectives.
Innovation: the research proposes new paradigms, challenges existing paradigms, or is designed to provide new mechanistic insights with the addition of the Center’s technical capabilities.
Significance: the study addresses an important problem, and the aims of the application, when achieved, will influence methods, treatments, or preventive interventions.
Research Plan: should present a conceptual framework, and adequately describe the experimental design, methods, and analyses, all well-integrated and appropriate to the aims of the project. 
Investigators: the investigators are already qualified and equipped to carry out the biological experiments described in the Research Plan and have assembled an expert investigative team with defined roles in the project.
Budget: project should be feasible within the allocated budget.
Timing: project completion should be feasible within one year. Administrative aspects of project initiation, such as establishing a subcontract for fund transfer, or modification of existing IRB or vertebrate animal protocols, will not count towards the one-year time frame. It is important to recognize that such delays are unavoidable and can take several months.