Pilot Award for Investigators New to HIV

Project Award Amount $50,000

The Pilot Award Program for Investigators New to HIV is aimed for Investigators New to HIV (Assistant or Associate faculty, including clinical) without past or current HIV/SIV funding with an innovative research idea in translational, clinical, and/or behavioral-epidemiological HIV research. Pilot awards are typically used to initiate a project or to gather preliminary data and findings leading to a future grant application. International research projects are allowed.

Funding for this program is $50,000 in direct costs (may include personnel salary and benefits) for one year. Any carry forward of funding is not guaranteed. If awarded, indirect costs at appropriate rates will be added to the total direct costs.

Of high interest to CFAR are investigations ranging from basic pathogenesis to clinical outcomes in the research areas of HIV/aging and inflammation, latency, cure, vaccines, co-infections, HIV in women, implementation science, and research related to health disparities in HIV-infected and HIV-impacted Bay Area populations. Our CFAR Science Cores and Working Group are available to assist you in your research. NOTE: Projects must be within NIH’s HIV/AIDS research high or medium priority areasProjects in closely related areas (e.g. TB, HCV, drug use, etc.) must be clearly linked to HIV in order to be eligible for CFAR funding.

NIH does not allow CFAR to fund clinical trials. If you are considering a study involving a clinical or behavioral intervention, please contact Brenda Sanchez with a brief description of your study ([email protected], cc: [email protected]) to determine whether your proposed project would be eligible for funding through CFAR. If it is not, we will provide advice on alternative funding options.

Program Contact - Should you have any questions regarding submission or reporting procedures, please contact Brenda Sanchez, CFAR Developmental Core ManagerThe complete guidelines for this RFA can be found here:  https://cfar.ucsf.edu/sites/cfar.ucsf.edu/files/PDF-Pilot-Program-Spring-CFAR-Guidelines-2020.pdf

Eligibility requirements need to be met as of date of submission; no waivers are allowed.

Junior or mid-level faculty members at UCSF or our affiliated partner institutes (Gladstone Institutes, Blood Systems Research Institute, San Francisco Department of Public Health, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center/NCIRE) may apply. Investigators may apply only if they are newly entering the field of HIV research. Investigators are not eligible for CFAR Pilot Funding if they have received any past HIV research funding from any agency.

Who is Eligible:

  • Current faculty in any Series (Ladder Rank, In Residence, Clinical X, Health Science Clinical, Adjunct) in the ranks of Associate professor, Assistant professor, and Clinical Instructor (including acting positions) who have not yet received any HIV/AIDS research funding.
  • Non-faculty series (Professional Research Series, Librarian Series and Specialist Series) may apply. Investigators in these series must make a strong case for their plan for becoming independent researchers

Who is Not eligible: Postdoctoral Fellows, applicants without terminal degrees (e.g. PhD, MD) and Full Professors; Staff. Please note that CFAR is not allowed to provide funding to any investigators who have received HIV-related R01 awards.

Special Considerations for Current NIH K Awardees:

  • CFAR allows current K awardees to provide complementary effort on their CFAR award with salary within their remaining 25% effort, if they also maintain the 75% required on the K-award as long as the specific aims differ from those on the “K” award. Please see the guide notice for details: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-17-094.html.

Submission Rules

All pilot award applications from individuals at the Assistant Professor level or below require an HIV research mentor, and faculty at the Associate Professor level are recommended to find an HIV research mentor or collaborator. CFAR requires your research mentor’s support to advise and guide the research portion of your application before submitting it to RAP. Note: The mentor is allowed but not required to have supervisory authority over the applicant during the project period. The mentor should be recognized as an accomplished investigator in AIDS research, and should be able to demonstrate past success in training/mentoring independent investigators. The mentor’s role is to provide oversight on the planning, direction, and execution of the proposed research. In addition, the mentor must commit to mentoring the applicant’s throughout the duration of the research project.


  • Clinical Trials: NIH has revised the definition of Clinical Trials in 2018: ‘If your study involves one or more human subjects, involves one or more interventionsprospectively assigns human subjects to interventions and has a health-related biomedical or behavior outcome. If yes, please contact Lauren Sterling or Brenda Sanchez with a brief description of your study ([email protected], cc: [email protected]) to determine whether your proposed project would be eligible for funding through CFAR.
  • Studies with Foreign Components: If the study has an international component requiring expenditure of funds (excluding travel) or a subcontract to a foreign institution, additional NIH approval and review is required. IRB approvals (both local and foreign), institutional FWA numbers, and human subjects training certifications (for local and foreign investigators) will be required before the release of any funding. [See NIH checklist form: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/sites/default/files/internationalstudieschecklist.doc.] Once all paperwork has been filed with the NIH, approval takes approximately 8–12 weeks.
  • Human Subjects: New investigators should visit the UCSF CHR website for details on when and how to apply for CHR approval at http://irb.ucsf.edu. Information on training, including online training resources, can be found on the CHR website at http://irb.ucsf.edu/citi-human-subjects-training.
  • Studies Above Minimal Risk: The NIH requires additional review (clinical checklist) for all studies above minimal risk or in vulnerable populations. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/sites/default/files/cfarguideclinresstud.doc.


Completed applications which meet eligibility requirements will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by an appropriate review committee convened by the UCSF Resource Allocation Program in accordance with NIH review criteria: 1. Significance, 2. Approach, 3. Innovation, 4. Investigator, 5. Environment. Each of these criteria will be addressed and considered in assigning the overall application score.

CFAR makes funding decisions based on several factors – scientific review score, alignment of proposal to CFAR/OAR strategic goals, proposal research area of focus, potential for the PI to become an independent investigator, and alignment with other requirements set forth in the RFA.

Awardees are encouraged to use one or more support services from our CFAR research resources:

  • Implementation Science Scientific Working Group – Applicants proposing a study in the field of implementation science are required to have an expert from the new Implementation Science Working Group consult with them regarding their study. Send an email with a brief study description to Monika Roy, SWG Director ([email protected]).
  • Clinical and Population Sciences Core: Steven Deeks, MD & Jeff Martin, MD, MPH, Directors; ([email protected][email protected]).
  • Immunology Core: Jeffrey Milush, PhD, Director ([email protected])
  • Specimen Bank Core: Richard Jordan, DDS, PhD, Director ([email protected]).
  • Pharmacology Core: Francesca Aweeka, Director ([email protected])
  • Health Disparities Core: Applicants proposing to conduct research with human subjects, especially local and/or underserved communities, are encouraged to consult with the Health Disparities Core. Send an email with a brief study description to Lauren Sterling, Managing Director ([email protected]) to receive this consultation.


STEP 1) Complete the RAP electronic application form
STEP 2) Upload your proposal as a SINGLE PDF that includes all the things listed in numeric order in the instructions below.

Instructions for Proposal PDF
Please write your proposal following the instructions listed below and create one single PDF file.
Proposal Length: Maximum 6 pages, including figures and tables, excluding table of contents, literature cited and community engagement component, if applicable.  Format Requirements: Arial font; 11 pt; minimum 0.5 inch for all margins; no appendices; include page numbers and table of contents.

Definition: Same research topic with an amended application or research plan rather than a new research topic and new research plan.
Requirements: Please use up to one extra page to introduce your revised proposal, addressing the issues raised in the review, and any additional changes to your proposal. A new letter from the Chair is not required if the resubmission is within 2 cycles (one skipped cycle max). You will include the old letter and state your resubmission is within 2 cycles and new letter is not required. Make sure the new changes are highlighted in bold or italic font so the reviewers can easily see where and how the proposal has changed. Do NOT use track changes.

1. Investigator Name (no multiple PIs); only one application is permitted per cycle.

  • Country of citizenship
  • Country of permanent residence

2. Project Title

3. Foreign Country. Supply the following (if applicable):

  • Country
  • Project field site
  • Foreign institution FWA number
  • Foreign IRB date of approval and approval number (specify if pending)

4. Proposal - (maximum 6 pages, including figures and tables, [1-6 below] excluding literature cited, mentoring plan, additional human-subjects information [7-9 below], and Community Engagement component (if applicable)).

  1. Aims (list at least two aims). Do not submit an application that describes an idea that is the same or similar to one used in a previously funded RAP grant. If it is a similar idea, describe how the new proposed research is uniquely different.
  2. Feasibility: Describe what steps you are taking to ensure the proposed project can be completed within the one year project period for this grant (approximately 300 word max).
  3. Background and Significance
  4. Preliminary studies
  5. Experimental Design and Methods (include time-table): a) Hypothesis, b) Rationale,
    c) Experimental approach, d) Interpretation of results
  6. Explain how this pilot project is important for your career goals, e.g., lead to future funding, etc.
  7. Mentoring Plan. Describe the plan for oversight of this project by your mentor(s) including the specific role of your primary mentor named in this application. Please also briefly describe why you selected your mentor for this project. (not included in the page limit)
  8. Literature cited (not included in the page limit)
  9. Protection of Human Subjects description (if applicable)
  10. Inclusion/Enrollment Table (if applicable for studies proposing human subjects, including existing resources) https://grants.nih.gov/grants/how-to-apply-application-guide/forms-d/general/g.500-phs-inclusion-enrollment-report.htm

5. Budget - The award level for this program is $50,000 in direct costs for a one-year project period. (Direct expenses must = $50,000). Direct costs may include personnel (salary and fringe benefits), consultant costs, equipment, supplies, travel to perform the study or to present findings from the study, and other expenses. Travel, along with other costs, must be fully justified. For all awards, appropriate indirect costs will be added to the total direct costs.  PIs are required to list their effort whether is paid or in kind.

Note: Any foreign subcontracting institution is limited to 8% indirect costs. All applicants applying from other institutions besides UCSF should contact Frank Fernandez, cc Brenda Sanchez for assistance developing your budget with the appropriate allowable indirect costs.

Please use the NIH PHS 398 form “Page 4: Detailed Budget for Initial Budget Period” (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/fp4.doc) to prepare your budget. The grid below describes the budget items which are allowable/not allowable for the Pilot Award Program:



Not Allowable

PI Salary



Post Doc Salary



Administrative Support



Program Supplies









Personal Computers*












Research Staff Support (e.g. RSA; Lab. Technician)



Patient Care



Indirect costs***



Others Expenses****



* Computers are only allowable when essential to the conduct of the proposed research. If the computer is planned to be used for other projects / responsibilities in addition to the CFAR project, we require that the cost of the computer be shared with those other project budgets, in accordance with the amount of use anticipated by each project.
** Travel for awardees is allowed only if required to conduct the study or to present findings from this study at a conference (not simply to attend a conference).
*** Budget should include your fully allowable federally-negotiated indirect costs
**** Refer to the UCSF Charging Practices and Guidelines of allowable Expenses

*NIH base salary cap. Fully justify all requests.

General guideline: PI partial salary support should not exceed 10% of the requested award budget NOT 10% of PI salary.  An amount over 10% of the award budget must be well justified. Multiple PIs can decide how to distribute the 10% salary support among themselves (e.g., 5%/5% or 6%/4%).

  • General Automobile and Employee Liability (GAEL) can be included in the requested budget
  • 10% includes SALARY & BENEFITS
  • The award amount is DIRECT COST ONLY

Note: If chosen for an award, applicants must adhere to NIH policy specifying that the collection of salary support from CFAR NIH funds while simultaneously collecting salary support from an NIH T32 award is unallowable.

6. Budget Justification: Clearly and fully justify all costs including benefit rates and indirect costs. Please contact us for assistance with your budget and/or sub-contract if you have any questions.

7. NIH Bio-sketch of Principal Investigator(s) and Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s) (if applicable) (5 page maximum).
Use this version: Biosketch Version F. Include biosketches for all PIs of a multi-PI application, and any other key personnel such as Co-Investigator(s) or UCSF Faculty Mentor(s). In section "D. Additional Information", list the relevant recent past, planned, active, and pending proposals, including percent effort and total direct costs (annual), where possible. Include a brief discussion of any potential overlap with the current proposal.

8. Letters of Support – Department Head and Mentors

  1. Department Head / Unit head (should indicate support for the application)
  2. Mentor/Collaborator’s Letter of Support: Include a letter of support from your research mentor or HIV Collaborator that includes the information outlined below:
    1. Specific areas in which HIV research will be provided
    2. Mentor/collaborator’s background in HIV research
    3. Describe how the project fits with the mentor’s research agenda and mentees career development (optional)
    4. Describe mentor/collaborator’s working relationship (previous and/or current) with applicant

12. Institutional Letter of Support (If Non UCSF)

Please provide a letter of support from the project site institution with signing official signature. The site/institution should comment on the independence of the applicant and availability of space and other resources for the proposed research.