Penn Center for AIDS Research




The Penn CFAR Developmental Core Pilot Award Program is designed to assist faculty member applicants (Assistant Professor and above) and junior non-faculty applicants (Instructor and/or Research Associate) to help launch or further develop a successful independently funded HIV/AIDS-related project or for more senior, previously NIH-funded investigators who are new to HIV/AIDS research.  This support is provided through mentoring (or partnerships for more seasoned investigators) and following application for one of two types of Pilot Program Awards. Mentoring is available regardless of whether or not an application is funded; all funded Pilot award recipients are assigned CFAR program mentors for the duration of the project.


The Developmental Core is intended to help the pilot grant applicants achieve the following goals:

  • Translate the pilot grant application into a subsequent peer review application (NIH or other agency)
  • Gain familiarity with the Penn CFAR, CFAR cores and services.
  • Networking—introduction to colleagues at the Penn CFAR and other Centers of the University of Pennsylvania, Wistar Institute and Children’s Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and potential opportunities for extramural collaboration.
  • Develop awareness of policies and procedures relevant to the awardee work (clear understanding of IRB or animal research requirements, good clinical practice, etc).
  • Achieve career advancement and work towards independence.
  • Establish an ethically sound research environment.
  • Assist applicants whose Pilot submissions were not funded to address reviewers concerns to achieve success in the following application cycle.


Investigators affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, the Wistar Institute, or CHOP are eligible to receive pre-application advice and to apply for Pilot Program funding.  At this time, funding is limited to Penn, Wistar, or CHOP affiliated investigators.  If you have questions about eligibility, please contact: Kate Gordon at or 215-573-7354.


Successful CFAR Pilot Awards focus on any aspect of HIV/AIDS clinical care, epidemiology, virology, immunology, structural biology, vaccine development, or prevention that are determined to be relevant to the goals of our program. Priority is given to junior faculty who have no other source of funding and who are seeking support for the development of preliminary data for an NIH R01-type application.  The University of Pennsylvania CFAR Developmental Core offers two types of pilot awards:

  • General Pilot Awards

These awards are given to faculty in any track or school at the University of Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or The Wistar Institute, including Staff Scientists.  All awardees are expected to participate in CFAR mentoring/professional development activities.

Junior faculty applicants are strongly encouraged to include a one-page mentorship plan with a senior faculty member.  Likewise, for non-HIV/AIDS investigators of any level, a one page partnership plan with an established HIV/AIDS investigator is strongly encouraged.


  • Research Scholar Awards –

Young investigators (Instructor or Research Associate appointments), poised to begin an independent project, are the focus of this program.  A letter of support from their scientific mentor must be included with the application. The mentor must be an assistant professor level equivalent or above and recognized as an accomplished investigator in HIV/AIDS research and must agree to provide mentorship for the duration of the award, with the requirements outlined below.

A specific mentorship plan and a plan for independent funding should be clearly defined and is required as part of the application process.

Additional information about mentoring (partnering) and mentor assignments is provided in the CFAR Mentoring Program.


  • Participate in Pilot Program Charge meeting held at beginning of the grant year, following award notices.
  • The CFAR faculty’s time and the CFAR Developmental Core are valuable resources.  It is the responsibility of the awardee/applicant to ask for assistance when needed and to be fully prepared for mentoring meetings. Preparatory materials such as pending papers, drafts of future grant specific aims, or other information should be provided at least 2 weeks in advance of meetings.
  • In presentations, abstracts, and publications, acknowledge CFAR funding with either of the following, as appropriate:

    Direct CFAR Funding Support:

    This research was supported by a grant from the Penn Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), an NIH-funded program (P30 AI 045008).

    Indirect/Partial Funding Support:

    This publication/presentation/grant proposal was made possible through core services and support from the Penn Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), an NIH-funded program (P30 AI 045008). 

    • For pilot award recipients: the awardee/applicant must participate actively in the program relationship and engage the assigned CFAR faculty in the process of transforming the pilot award grant into a subsequent grant submission. The awardee/applicant should engage the mentor at all stages of grant preparation: from the initial conception of an idea to the final grant submission. The pilot awardee must provide the CFAR mentor with a copy of any grant application in a reasonable time (at least 4 weeks) for feedback.  This timeline requires that the process of mentorship start well before submission (i.e., at least 3 months prior to due date) if planning for final critical review and revision.
    • To monitor progress of the Pilot project and submission of a subsequent grant application, the awardee/applicant must agree to meet at least twice a year or more as indicated in the mentoring plan or as requested by his/her CFAR faculty mentor.  Awardees/applicants agree to send a preparatory e-mail to assigned CFAR faculty outlining the topics to be covered and goals of the mentoring meeting.
    • The awardee/applicant should take advantage of opportunities for collaborative research within the CFAR of the University of Pennsylvania and other CFARs of the country.
    • The awardee should participate in general professional development activities and research in-progress sessions coordinated by CFAR Development Core for added feedback on active awards.
    • Mentees (both for funded Pilot awards and unfunded Pilot applications) will complete annual progress reports that review progress, spending (for funded programs), highlights, next steps, and track abstracts/presentations/publications.
    • As mentioned in responsibilities of the Faculty Mentor, the awardee/applicant also will complete a survey distributed by the CFAR Developmental Core related to the mentorship program.  This information should be factual and focus on scientific progress and a frank evaluation of the pilot program. The goal is to identify things that work and things that do not work so the program can be improved in subsequent years of this grant cycle.  


      • Assure implementation of program by monitoring interactions through activity reports.
      • Create a survey tool to be completed by all participants to evaluate the success (or lack of) of the pilot mentorship program.
      • At the end of the pilot year, the Core in collaboration with the leadership of CFAR will perform a review of the pilot mentoring program, the progress of each mentee and modify the mentoring program as needed.
      • Provide opportunities for research presentation of on-going work, training in grant procurement, laboratory management, and mentoring as requested.
      • Track Developmental Core grant outcomes.