Pilot Awards

The Third Coast Center for AIDS Research (TC CFAR) Developmental Core regularly solicits applications for pilot awards that will support new HIV research led by early stage investigators or faculty new to HIV. Results from pilot awards should form the basis of a future application to the NIH for HIV research. The Developmental Core has funded 47 high-impact pilot projects from 2015-2023.

Funding Opportunity Description

The TC CFAR solicits applications for pilot awards to begin in spring or summer 2024. TC CFAR pilot awards are intended for preliminary studies in HIV-related basic, clinical, social, behavioral, or implementation research that will lead to new grant submissions to the NIH for HIV research. The proposed project must align with NIH priorities for HIV research (NOT-OD-20-018). Review criteria value projects that are trans-disciplinary and that will be competitive for NIH HIV funding using pilot results. Proposals must outline a new project that is distinct from any currently funded research. Collaborations between HIV researchers and researchers in other (non-HIV) fields are encouraged.  Please contact the Developmental Core leadership if there is need for identifying potential collaborators.

Funds Available and Project Timelines

  • Up to $60,000 in direct costs are allowed and smaller budgets may be awarded. Indirect costs will be determined at the time of award.
  • Awards will be made from the Third Coast CFAR P30 grant and/or institutional commitments.
  • Funding is contingent upon NIH support for the Third Coast CFAR, which is expected to renew in 2025.
  • The maximum project period is one year. Proposals for shorter projects are encouraged. All projects must be completed by the end of April 2025.
  • Documentation that the applicant has requested IRB or IACUC approval will be required with proposal. Similarly, applicants anticipating an exemption determination from an IRB or IACUC must provide documentation that the exemption has been requested as part of the proposal package. Full approvals or exemption determinations must be in place in order for an application to be prioritized for funding.


The Principal Investigator (PI) on the application must be a new investigator (i.e. never PI on an R01-equivalent NIH grant) or new to HIV research (i.e. never PI on R01-equivalent NIH grant for HIV). The PI must also be a Third Coast CFAR faculty member, which means they have a PI-eligible appointment at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, or Lurie Children’s Hospital.  

All investigators listed on an application need to be a member of the Third Coast CFAR, either as a full faculty or affiliate member. Register for CFAR membership here: http://www.thirdcoastcfar.org/membership.

New investigators are required, and new to HIV investigators are strongly encouraged, to include an established HIV researcher as a mentor on the application. Investigators previously funded in this program may apply for a pilot award to continue with a second year of funding for an existing pilot project with written permission from the Developmental Core.

RFA Timelines

  • RFA issued: December 15, 2023
  • LOI survey due: February 7, 2024
  • Pre-submission meeting: February 12, 2024
  • Applications due: March 20, 2024
  • Earliest start date: May 1, 2024

View the Pilot Award RFA.

Additional Information and Questions

It is the mission of the Developmental Core of the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research to provide strong support for new investigators and established investigators new to HIV research. Please contact us with questions or requests for assistance at any point in the application process. Requests for additional information and questions may be directed to:

Jenny Trinitapoli, PhD
Developmental Core Director
Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago

Kathryn Macapagal, PhD
Developmental Core Co-Director
Associate Professor of Medical Social Sciences, Northwestern University

Elena Martinelli, PhD
Developmental Core Co-Director
Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), Northwestern University

Justin Schmandt, MPH
Associate Director, Third Coast CFAR

Developmental Core

Jenny Trinitapoli, PhD, The University of Chicago
Developmental Core Director

Kathryn Macapagal, PhD, Northwestern University
Developmental Core Co-Director

Elena Martinelli, PhD, Northwestern University
Developmental Core Co-Director

Justin Schmandt, MPH, Northwestern University
CFAR Associate Director

To request information about Developmental Core awards and services, contact Justin Schmandt.