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.

Of high interest to  UCSF-Bay Area Center for Aids Research 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 UCSF-Bay Area CFAR Science Cores and Working Group are available to assist you in your research. Projects must be within NIH’s HIV/AIDS research high or medium priority areas.  Projects in closely related areas (e.g. TB, HCV, drug use, etc.) must be clearly linked to HIV in order to be eligible for UCSF-Bay Area CFAR funding.

The award amount is $50,000 in direct costs and may include personnel salary and benefits. The funding period is one year. Any carry forward of funding will require pre-approval, must be fully justified, and is not guaranteed. If awarded, indirect costs at appropriate rates will be added to the total direct costs.

Please note that under the RAP umbrella consortium of UCSF funders, your award could be co-funded by two or more agencies, each requiring separate accounts and documentation.

Clinical Trials NIH does not allow UCSF-Bay Area CFAR to fund clinical trials If your study involves one or more human subjects, involves one or more interventionsprospectively assigns human subjects to interventions, or has a health-related biomedical or behavior outcome, 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. 


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

Junior or mid-level faculty members at UCSF or affiliated partner institutes (https://cfar.ucsf.edu/about/partners 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 Assistant professor, Associate 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 and full professors; staff Applicants without terminal degrees (e.g. PhD and MD).

UCSF-Bay Area CFAR is not allowed to provide funding to any investigators who have received HIV-related R01 awards.

Special Considerations for Current NIH K Awardees:
UCSF-Bay Area CFAR allows current K awardees to provide complementary effort on their UCSF-Bay Area 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

Designation of Mentor or Collaborator
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. UCSF-Bay Area 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 throughout the duration of the research project.

Award Restrictions

  • IRB Approvals: All NIH-funded research requires IRB approval and human subjects training certification. All awardees whose research involves human subjects (e.g., patients or cohorts or the use of specimens/samples/medical record data) will be required to apply for and obtain approval for their research from the UCSF Institutional Review Board (IRB). Awardees at or conducting research at other institutions may also be required to obtain IRB approval from these institutions as well. Note: Funding for research projects involving human subjects will not be released until an IRB approval or Human Subjects waiver letter (citing the awardee's name) and proof of human subjects training have been received. 
  • Studies Above Minimal Risk: The NIH requires additional review (clinical checklist) for all studies above minimal risk or in vulnerable populations. 
  • 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.

Criteria for Review/Evaluation of Applications

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(s), 5. Environment. Each of these criteria will be addressed and considered in assigning the overall application score.

The proposal will be evaluated based on the following questions: click here to view the review form for this grant mechanism.

Selection of Awardees
UCSF-Bay Area CFAR makes funding decisions based on several factors – scientific review score, alignment of proposal to UCSF-Bay Area 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.

CFAR Research Resources

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

  1. Intersectionality Scientific Working Group – Applicants proposing a study in the field of intersectionality research are encouraged to receive feedback on their project from the UCSF-Bay Area CFAR Intersectionality Scientific Working Group. Please contact Joe Watabe to coordinate ([email protected]). 
  2. Housing Scientific Working Group – Applicants proposing a study in the field of homelessness or housing insecurity are encouraged to receive feedback on their project from the UCSF-Bay Area CFAR Housing Scientific Working Group. Please contact Joe Watabe to coordinate ([email protected]). 
  3. Implementation Science Scientific Interest Group – Applicants proposing a study in the field of implementation science are encouraged to receive feedback on their project from the UCSF-Bay Area CFAR Implementation Science Interest Group. Please contact Joe Watabe to coordinate ([email protected]). 
  4. Clinical Core: Steven Deeks, MD & Katerina Christopoulos, MD, MPH, Co-Directors; ([email protected][email protected]). 
  5. Basic and Translational Science Core: Peter Hunt, MD ([email protected])
  6. Bio-Behavioral Core: Mallory Johnson, PhD ([email protected]).

All studies and publications resulting from funded projects are required to be compliant with PMCID Public Access regulations and must cite UCSF-Bay Area CFAR support as follows: This research was supported by from the NIH-funded UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research (P30 AI027763). 

Progress Reporting
Progress reports will be due to the UCSF-Bay Area CFAR program office by the month of May (UCSF-Bay Area CFAR progress reporting) and at the end of project period. Progress reports are provided to the CFAR Directors and the NIH program office.


STEP 1) Complete the electronic application form.  Please note there are several pieces of information that need to be provided directly via the electronic application form (selecting the appropriate grant mechanism, providing demographic information, uploading an abstract, etc.).

Click here to preview an inactive template of the 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.


Please write your proposal following the instructions listed below and create one single PDF file. Do not include form fields in your PDF document.

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. Make sure the new edits 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". A new letter of support from the Department Chair or other Unit Head is required in all cases.

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, and additional human-subjects information [7-9 below])

  1. Aims (list at least two aims)
  2. Background and Significance
  3. Preliminary studies
  4. Experimental Design and Methods (include time-table)
          a) Hypothesis, b) Rationale, c) Experimental approach, d) Interpretation of results
  5. Explain how this pilot project is important for your career goals, e.g., lead to future funding, etc.
  6. 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. (not included in the page limit)
  7. Literature cited (not included in the page limit)
  8. Protection of Human Subjects description (if applicable)
  9. Inclusion/Enrollment Table (if applicable for studies proposing human subjects, including existing resources) 

5. Budget - 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 maximum award amount per proposal is $50,000 in direct costs for a one-year project period (direct expenses must = $50,000); round up to the nearest thousand (e.g., instead of $49,869 list $50,000).     

      Budget Preparation Resources:

Pilot Award for Investigators new to HIV budget


Not Allowable

PI Salary



Post Doc Salary



Network Recharge Rates



General Automobile and Employee Liability insurance (GAEL)



Administrative Support



Program Supplies









Personal Computers*












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



Patient Care



Indirect costs***



Others Expenses****



Publication fees; max $5K X  

General Guidelines:
+ The NIH base salary cap applies.  PIs are required to list their effort whether it is paid or in kind.

* 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 UCSF-Bay Area 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: 

  • The award amount is DIRECT COST ONLY.
  • 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 (including subcontract indirect costs) will be added to the total direct costs. 
  • All applicants applying from other institutions besides UCSF should contact Rado Lee, cc Brenda Sanchez for assistance developing your budget with the appropriate allowable indirect costs.
  • If chosen for an award, applicants must adhere to NIH policy specifying that the collection of salary support from UCSF-Bay Area CFAR NIH funds while simultaneously collecting salary support from an NIH T32 award is unallowable.
  • International research proposals should provide two separate budgets: A foreign budget listing all its expenses with 8% indirect cost included, and 2) domestic budget listing all its expenses with 26% indirect cost factored in. Note that subcontract indirect costs are not included in the $50,000 direct costs limit.

6. Budget Justification:  Salary requested for the PI and all project personnel should be well-justified with respect to project activities and the time necessary to complete them. For all personnel, clearly identify any discrepancies between the actual effort (i.e. real percent time) the individual will contribute to the project, versus the amount of salary effort they are requesting.  This is particularly important for personnel/PI's who expect to contribute project effort with little or no salary, such as those whose salary is above the NIH base salary cap.

Clearly and fully justify all costs including benefit rates and indirect costs. Budget Overlap - If the proposed study is closely related or a sub-study of existing funded research listed in the applicant’s bio sketch, clarify the relationship between the two projects and confirm that there is no overlap in funding.

NOTE: If your Other Support references projects that may appear to have scientific or budgetary overlap with this proposal, please clearly identify and explain why this proposal is unique and non-overlapping.

Please contact us for assistance with your budget and/or sub-contract if you have any questions. A budget justification template document can be found here: https://osr.ucsf.edu/file/211

7.  NIH BioSketch of Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s) (if applicable), (5 page format):

·         Use Form Version H at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/biosketch-blank-format-rev-10-2021.docx
·         Include bio sketches for both PIs of a multi-PI application
·         Only NIH Bio sketch version H will be accepted with RAP applications this Spring 2024 Cycle.

Other support pages of Principal Investigator(s) and Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s)  Use form at https://grants.nih.gov/sites/default/files/other-support-format-page-rev-10-2021.docx

8. Letters of Support:

  • Provide a letter of support from the Department Chair or other Unit Head. In addition, for early career investigators, department chairs/unit heads should comment on the independence of the applicant and availability of research space and other resources for the proposed research.
  • Provide a letter of support from your Research Mentor that includes the following information:
    1. Specific areas/fields in which mentoring in 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 mentee’s career development (optional)
    4. Describe mentor/collaborator’s working relationship (previous and/or current) with applicant 

Include the letters of support at the end of your PDF proposal and address it to the RAP Committee.

9. 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.

Program Contact - Should you have any questions regarding submission or reporting procedures, please contact Brenda Sanchez, UCSF-Bay Area CFAR Developmental Core Manager.