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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

2017 Pilot Funding Program

Call for Letters of Intent
Theme for 2017: From Molecules to Man - The Sciences of Aging and Rehabilitation of Age-Associated Disabilities
Due October 14, 2016

Supported by:

  • Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Stimulating Pittsburgh Research in Geroscience (SPRIG) Workgroup


For the FY2017 Seed Grant program, we are thrilled to collaborate with the entities above to support novel and new research directions within this year’s theme of Aging and Rehabilitation of Age-Associated Disabilities. This multidisciplinary pilot program seeks to fund innovative, transdisciplinary and translational projects in aging that can lead to new lines of research with independent funding.

Theme for FY2017:
From Molecules to Man - The Sciences of Aging and Rehabilitation of Age-Associated Disabilities

Submissions of projects within this theme are encouraged from investigators ranging from the basic, social, and applied sciences throughout the schools of the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC.

The number of adults aged 65 years and older, as well as the number of individuals living with disabilities is expected to increase significantly over the coming generations, yet many research gaps remain. The theme of Aging and Rehabilitation of Age-Associated Disabilities broadly encompasses the extension of the health span to stave off decline in function as a person ages, and investigation into the aging process in individuals with disabilities to promote and maintain health and function.

This program is funded to support multidisciplinary, innovative research in this important area and is intended to draw from the full spectrum of disciplines within the health sciences, from basic biology, rehabilitation effectiveness, clinical and translational approaches, epidemiological, psychosocial, health policy and health services research.

Priority will be given to projects that:

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

Deadline for Letter of Intent: October 14, 2016
Final Notice of Award: Spring 2017

Only proposals that fall within the theme of Aging and Rehabilitation of Age-Associated Disabilities will be considered for full proposal. All proposals must include multidisciplinary collaborations.

Focus areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Investigations into the biological processes that drive aging and aging-related pathologies including but not limited to bioenergetics investigations, aging and metabolism research and multidisciplinary bench science
  • Explorations into the mechanisms of aging-related disease and disability as well as clinical care algorithms and the health economics of rehabilitation. Considerations of health and recovery across the continuum and secondary prevention in patients with chronic diseases
  • Approaches seeking to explore safety and effectiveness of clinical medications, devices, diagnostic products and treatment regimens amongst the aging population, explorations into the clinical components of prevention, treatment and diagnosis with older adults, as well as the translation of biomedical advances into community-health based improvements and patient-centered outcomes research
  • Analysis and review of authoritative decisions that impact the health of older adults and its determinants made in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of government that are intended to direct the actions, behaviors, or decisions of the aging population


Each award will be for the period of up to two years.

Funds are for direct costs of the project only and are restricted to use for supplies and technical support only. No funds may be used for investigator, research associate, or postdoctoral associate effort.

The total amount available this year is up to $300,000.

Type I Awards - up to $75,000

  • Application is open to current post-doctoral fellow and independent investigators at all academic levels within the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC; priority will be given to highly innovative collaborative projects across labs and disciplines involving more than one Principal Investigators.

Type II Awards - up to $10,000

  • Direct costs of up to $10,000 to support research proposals from clinicians from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. There is an expectation that matching release time will be provided by clinician employers.

Anticipated start date: July 1, 2017

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 all investigators,
  • Two page summary to include:
    1. The importance and impact of the work for the investigators, the University of Pittsburgh, and UPMC
    2. Specific aims
    3. Summary of methods and experimental design
    4. 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 October 14, 2016.

Only proposals that fall within the theme of Aging and Rehabilitation of Age-Associated Disabilities will be considered for full proposals. Selected candidates will be contacted by November 14, 2016 and asked to submit a full proposal (if invited) by February 14, 2017.

Final awardees will be notified in spring 2017.

Submission Deadline

The deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent is October 14, 2016.

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

2013 Grant Recipients

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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