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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 2015: Informing Aging Policy for Better Health
Due November 6, 2014

Supported by the University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute and the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh.


This pilot program supports projects that have high potential to lead to independently funded multidisciplinary aging research on health policies to improve quality and outcomes and reduce costs for the aging population in the United States.  While there is no “age cut off” for aging, the scope of aging research includes normal aging, organ system and cellular aging, behavioral and social issues among older adults and health care services for older people and their significant others.  For the most part, a study of disease-specific conditions is not considered responsive.

Theme for 2015 - Health Policy and Aging

Policymakers in the United States are grappling with the challenge of meeting the healthcare needs of the aging population while containing costs and improving health outcomes. While many advocacy organizations have put forth a host of policy ideas and programs, there is a paucity of policy recommendations that are supported by high-quality scientific evidence.  Given healthcare reform and the wide variety of new health policies being implemented or tested, a unique opportunity for research exists that develops, interprets and advances ideas to improve health policy for the aging population in the United States. The University of Pittsburgh is well positioned to apply its pool of nationally and internationally renowned investigators and data resources to begin filling this knowledge gap. This program is being funded to support multidisciplinary, innovative research in this important policy area.

The Informing Aging Policy for Better Health program will support projects that apply scientific research to healthcare for the aging population with the goal of making clearly defined, well supported health policy recommendations.  For the purpose of this Seed Grant program, “health policy” is defined as “authoritative decisions that impact health and its determinants made in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of government that are intended to direct the actions, behaviors, or decisions of others.” Proposals and can be within the disciplines of basic, clinical, epidemiological, psychosocial or health services research.

This call for Letters of Intent welcomes projects researching health policies to affect change, inform lawmakers, and provide policymakers with guidance regarding new models of care, healthcare reimbursement and financing, novel approaches to care coordination and the interdisciplinary delivery of care, reducing health disparities and other health policy research that addresses the needs of the elderly population.  Examples of topics could include but are not limited to:

  • Home and community based services
  • Family and caregiver support
  • Geriatric workforce development, including scope of practice, loan repayment programs and other incentives
  • Data sharing among Medicare, Medicaid, and other entities to support care coordination
  • Coverage and reimbursement of palliative and hospice care
  • Incentives for care planning and self-management of chronic conditions
  • Financial and regulatory reform for long-term support services
  • Use and application of technology to support chronic disease management 

Only proposals that fall within the theme of Informing Aging Policy for Better Health 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 and up to 5 awards will be granted with awards ranging from $10,000 to $75,000.  The total amount available this year is $200,000.

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 Thursday, November 6, 2014.  Only proposals that fall within the theme of Health Policy and Aging will be considered for full proposals.  Selected candidates will be contacted by December 4, 2014 and asked to submit a full proposal (if invited) by February 5, 2015. Final awardees will be notified in spring 2015.

Submission Deadline

The deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent is Thursday, November 6, 2014.   

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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