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Pilot Seed Grant Program​

Engaging a New Generation of Leaders in Geriatric Research

Launched in 2007, The Pilot Seed Grant program supports innovative, high-risk, multi-disciplinary research in aging including basic and translational research leading to innovations in health care for older adults.

The program was developed to encourage junior faculty researchers to explore new areas of research in aging that have a potential for further funding from extramural funding sources.

Seed grant awardee Dr. Edward A. Burton is featured in this story from

Funding for the Pilot Seed Grant is made possible through the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh.


Call for Letters of Intent
Theme for 2016: Aging and Cancer
Due November 9, 2015

Supported by the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh with additional funding from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Behavioral Health and Smart Technology


This pilot program is designed to fund projects in aging that can lead to new lines of research with independent funding. Priority will be given to projects that:

  1. promote new multidisciplinary collaborations, especially across schools within the University of Pittsburgh
  2. involve teams that include early stage investigators as well as established investigator
  3. are led by investigators who wish to extend their work into the field of aging
  4. include collaboration between a basic and clinical scientist.

Theme for 2016 - Aging and Cancer

Eligible projects for consideration must fit within the theme of Aging and Cancer  and can be within the disciplines of basic, clinical, epidemiological, psychosocial or health services research. Examples of topics include but are not limited to: 

  • Does chronological versus biological age affect response and complications related to treatment, and why?
  • What effect does stress have on response to cancer therapy and how is this affected by age?
  • Does an older immune system alter the impact of immunotherapies?
  • What are some of the special needs of older cancer patients and their care providers?
  • Are older adults adequately educated related to the risk and benefits of treatments?
  • What is the relationship between cognitive function and physical function and outcomes in older cancer patients? 
  • Can rehabilitation and survivorship programs impact outcomes in older cancer patients?
  • Technology Development Projects ($25,000): interventions, specifically the development of scalable interventions that address this year's program theme and incorporate novel uses of technology; either off-the-shelf, yet-to-be-developed, or some combination and can later be tested in an adequately powered and externally funded clinical trial. 

Deadline for Letter of Intent: Monday, November 9, 2015
Final Notice of Award: Thursday, March 24, 2016

Only proposals that fall within the theme of Aging and Cancer will be considered for full proposal.  All proposals must include multidisciplinary collaborations.

Additional priorities for funding include one or more of the following:

  • Collaborations across schools or departments within schools, and/or
  • Teams with at least one early-stage investigator 


Each award will be for the period of up to two years. The total amount available this year is $125,000.

Letter of Intent

The Letter of Intent should include the following:

  • Descriptive title of proposed research,
  • Name, address, and telephone number of the Principal Investigator(s),
  • Participating institutions/departments/schools,
  • Potential matching funding, if applicable (matching funds are not a requirement for funding),
  • NIH format biographical sketch of PI and at least one investigator from another discipline,
  • Two page summary to include:
    • The importance and impact of the work for the investigators, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC,
    • Specific aims,
    • Summary of methods and experimental design,
    • Overview of plans for independent funding
  • References cited

Letter of Intent Results  

The results of your Letter of Intent: Each Letter of Intent will be reviewed by a committee for responsiveness and potential impact.  Letters of Intent, submitted as one electronic file are due to Taafoi Kamara at by Monday, November 9, 2015.  Only proposals that fall within the theme of Aging and Cancer  will be considered for full proposals. Final awardees will be notified in spring 2016.

Submission Deadline

The deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent is Monday, November 9, 2015.   

Submissions are due to Taafoi Kamara, submitted as one electronic file at

2013 Grant Recipients

​Project Title Principal Investigator​(s) Project Summary​
Investigation of Types of Situations that Trigger Urgency and Leakage in People with Urge Urinary Incontinence​ Becky Clarkson, PhD​ Researchers will study the causes and triggers of urge urinary incontinence by recreating situations during urodynamic studies of the bladder and urethra.​
Role of Telomere and Mitochondria Cross-Talk in Cellular Aging​ Patricia L. Opresko, PhD and Bennett Van Houten, PhD​ In this study, researchers will explore the link between telomere and mitochondria mechanisms and how damage to each contributes to organ decline and disease with aging. ​
Feasibility and Acceptability of Adding Family Components to Evidence-Based Collaborative Care Model for Older Adults with Depression and Chronic Medical Conditions​ Mijung Park, PhD, MPH, RN
​Researchers will conduct personal interviews with a diverse group of older adults with depression, family caregivers, and providers to examine how families can be included in a collaborative depression care program for those with complex health care needs.​
Relationship between Frailty, Falls, and Measures of Mobility, Cognition, and Functional Neuroimaging in Residents of Long-Term Care (LTC) Facilities​ Patrick Sparto, PhD, PT and Susan Greenspan, MD​ Investigators will use portable, novel, and state-of-the-art equipment, including a gait analysis app developed for the iPhone (iGait), to measure strength, muscle mass, cognition, and sway of 20 residents of a long-term care facility. That information in addition to a standard assessment of cognition, function and falls will be used to demonstrate the feasibility of conducting assessments in LTC facilities.​
Communication about Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Decisions in Older Patients with Comorbid Dementia​ Carolyn T. Thorpe, PhD, MPH​ In this study, researchers will examine the decision-making process for treatment of older patients with both Type 2 diabetes and dementia to better understand barriers to controlling blood sugar levels.​

View our past pilot seed grant recipients>

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