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Small grants to conduct pilot projects are a well-proven and pivotal mechanism for the establishment and capacity building of a successful, sustainable research program. They allow investigators to establish and test new collaborations and ideas and to collect preliminary data to demonstrate the feasibility of important clinical and translational research projects. Without a mechanism to test the soundness of new ideas, it is more difficult for investigators to develop a high-quality research program and to successfully secure future peer-reviewed research funding.

The opportunity to form new collaborations is an integral part of the ACCEL mission. In the mechanisms described in this section, partnerships involving investigators from multiple institutions are especially encouraged. These partnerships will include Delaware institutions (the University of Delaware, Nemours, Christiana Care, and Delaware State University) and our partner at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). All projects funded under the Pilot Projects Program will have to be clinical or translational in nature. Collaborative research between basic, clinical, and translational researchers from different disciplines, departments, and/or programs within or across institutions will be encouraged, and half of the Pilot Projects funded will be clinical research.

The pilot project grants provide an opportunity to continue to grow the community of medical researchers by including a strong mentorship component. Although our pilot grant program targets faculty with a wide range of experiences, all PIs of pilot projects who are junior faculty without prior NIH funding will be required to have a mentor who has undergone mentorship training through an established faculty mentorship program (see PD Core). Both pilot grant recipients and mentors are expected to participate in ACCEL events, retreats and planning meetings so they become a part of the ACCEL community. We believe this integration contributes to ACCEL’s overall success

We will fund a wide variety of types of awards, including standard pilot grants, Shovel-Ready pilot grants, the funding of small conferences and symposia on special interest topics, Jumpstart awards, and Overcoming Barriers to Translational Success awards. Evaluation of applications will be reviewed by members of the ACCEL Research Committee using a scoring mechanisms similar to that used by the NIH. All applications and summary statements are then reviewed by the ACCEL Executive Committee to ensure programmatic compatibility. The Steering Committee, in turn, makes recommendations to the ACCEL External Advisory Committee, which makes the ultimate funding recommendations. All funding decisions must then be approved by the NIH prior to making any awards.

Specific Aims

  1. Inspire and support interdisciplinary clinical and translational research. To accomplish this we will provide modest size standard pilot grants ($80K, one-year of funding). These grants will especially encourage research that addresses the healthcare needs in Delaware with a goal to increase the number of clinical and translational investigators at each institution. To identify and support innovative new mechanisms that help investigators to move outstanding clinical and translational project proposals into the funding range, we will fund SHOvel REady (ShoRe) Pilot Proposals. In this mechanism, researchers who have submitted external proposals and received a summary statement are eligible to apply for funding ($20K) over a short period of time (6 months) to collect additional preliminary data so they can resubmit a stronger and hopefully fundable external proposal.
  2. Catalyze high-impact areas of research and interdisciplinary collaboration. To accomplish this we will maintain a mechanism to fund proposals for Research Retreats on special interest topics, and we will provide
  3. “Jumpstart” grants ($20K) to catalyze the development of new and exciting research teams. Our standard pilot grant program will prioritize pilot projects resulting from funded Research Retreats and the Jumpstart grants.
  4. Overcome barriers that investigators face in successful translation of their work across the research continuum. To do this we will fund proposals from faculty teams for OveRcoming Barriers to Translational Success (ORBiTS) awards. These two-year grants will enable faculty to hire technical staff, procure specialized equipment, or hire a specialized consultant so that they can overcome identified obstacles/hurdles and generate strong clinical and trans- lational research programs. We believe this type of support will provide considerable help in bringing engineers and basic scientists into the clinical and translational arena, ultimately leading to procurement of center-type grants.

The ACCEL Pilot Project Program will enable investigators to create new partnerships and new research activities. It will encourage and vastly expand clinical and translational research across our consortium.