2023-2024 Pilot Project Request for Applications

The Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) is seeking pilot project applications focused on proposing high-impact and innovative research in the fields of HIV, HCV, substance use, and the continuum of prevention and care in these topical areas. The Pilot Projects Award provides the opportunity for investigators to develop new research initiatives or test the feasibility of new research strategies with the long-term goal of securing subsequent external funding.


The mission of CDUHR is to end the HIV and HCV epidemics in drug using populations and their communities by conducting transdisciplinary research and disseminating its findings to inform programmatic, policy, and grass roots initiatives at the local, state, national and global levels. CDUHR accomplishes this mission through a “core infrastructure” designed to develop and enhance research with the following objectives:

  • Devise innovative strategies to overcome barriers to ending HIV/AIDS among people who use drugs (PWUD)
  • Conduct research to reveal effective ways to implement evidence-based practices that will advance the goal of ending HIV/AIDS among PWUD
  • Develop multilevel conceptual models of HIV/AIDS among PWUD to guide intervention and other research that will reduce new HIV infections, and increase the proportion of individuals living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy and virally suppressed, or at-risk of HIV infection and on PrEP

An award of up to $25,000 will be distributed to support an 11-month pilot project. As part of CDUHR’s mentorship program, pilot project awardees and other interested applicants are encouraged to receive mentoring and are matched with at least two senior investigators for mentorship (list of potential mentors, updated October 4, 2023) both within and outside of the grantee’s discipline to foster a broad transdisciplinary perspective to their research. New and early career investigators, and applicants currently collaborating with senior investigators are eligible to apply. Senior investigators seeking to develop new expertise or embark on research in areas related to CDUHR’s mission are also eligible to apply. Priority is given to early career and new investigators.

A proposed title and a completed Mentorship Form are due by December 5, 2023 by 5:00 pm.

These materials will be screened for alignment with CDUHR’s mission and NIH HIV/AIDS research priority areas. A full application is due by December 15, 2023 by 5:00 pm. See Application Instructions for submitting the full application.


The Pilot Projects Program is an open competition to investigators and potential investigators who have obtained a doctoral level degree.

While senior investigators and applicants not seeking mentoring are eligible to apply, applicants representative of the following groups are particularly encouraged and will be prioritized:

  • Early stage investigators
  • Established investigators without prior experience in HIV, HCV and substance use research
  • Established investigators who are pursuing a new area of inquiry within the fields of HIV, HCV and substance use research, and
  • Investigators considered to be nationally underrepresented in the field of HIV and substance use research by NIH and NIDA. These include individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from socially, culturally, economically, or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds that have inhibited their ability to pursue a career in health-related research.

Pilot projects funds may not be used to supplement or prolong ongoing research, to support dissertation research or coursework, or to purchase equipment, and cannot be used as bridge funds when other research support is no longer available.

Award Criteria

Funding decisions will be based on the following criteria:

  • Relation of proposed research to CDUHR’s thematic focus of overcoming barriers to ending HIV/AIDS among PWUD.
  • The extent to which the research falls within the high priority topics in the NIH Strategic Plan for HIV and HIV-Related Research.
  • Scientific quality of the proposed research.
  • Innovativeness and significance of the research idea.
  • Likelihood of research findings to translate into practice and/or result in meaningful public health impact.
  • Use of multidisciplinary approach/methodology.
  • Potential of the project to enhance the training of the investigator.
  • Potential of research findings to lead to subsequent funding.

Additional consideration will also be given to applicants who are new and early career investigators, established investigators without prior experience in substance use and HIV or HCV research, or who are exploring a new area of inquiry in the field, and/or investigators who are considered to be nationally underrepresented in the fields of HIV or HCV and substance use research by NIH and NIDA, as outlined above.

Note that NIDA requires CDUHR to provide a description and justification of all pilot projects before initiating them. Notification includes a description and rationale for the project, and addressing the question of how it falls within CDUHR’s mission. In addition, CDUHR must state that the project will comply with NIH policies, including approval of human subject research. Clinical trials and projects that pose greater than minimal risk to participants require prior approval from the NIDA project officer. The request for approval must include protocols for human subjects protection and a Data and Safety Monitoring Plan (DSMP). See NIH PAR-20-267, Section VI, “Prior Approval of Pilot Projects” for original language.

Letter of Intent (recommended, but not required) Not applicable
Title & Mentorship Form Due (required): December 5, 2023 – 5:00 pm
Applicants Notified of Invitation to Apply (Standard): Not applicable
Full Application Due: December 15, 2023 – 5:00 pm
Announcement of Award: January 5, 2024
Award Period: January 6, 2024 – November 30, 2024
Mid-year Progress Report Due: June 3, 2024
Awardee Final Presentations: Spring 2025