Penn Center for AIDS Research

Pilot Program Guidelines

The Penn Center for AIDS Research (Penn CFAR) invites Pilot Grant applications offered through its Developmental Core.

Proposals in all areas of HIV/AIDS clinical, basic, bio-behavioral and implementation science research are welcomed. Pilot projects should lead to future independent HIV/AIDS funding. The CFAR is especially interested in proposals from new investigators and those from established investigators who are turning their focus to HIV/AIDS. 

All proposals must address high or medium priority areas in the NIH Priorities for HIV/AIDS research. 


Pilot Awards Eligibility:

  • New investigators who never have held extramural R01-level support from the NIH
  • Investigators who have not previously been funded by the NIH for work in HIV/AIDS
  • Investigators who have worked in HIV/AIDS who wish to study an area that is a significant departure from their currently funded work
  • New interdisciplinary collaborations involving investigators from different disciplines who have not previously worked together
  • Prior awardees are welcome to re-apply if an additional pilot would bolster their application for their first R01-level NIH award

Two types of pilot award are available:  

1. General Pilot Research Awards

2. Mentored Research Scholar Awards

The award types are described below.

(*Note that researchers who are not eligible for these awards may be eligible for CFAR microgrants which are awarded on a rolling basis throughout the year: 

Amount:  General Pilot Research Awards are for a maximum of $60,000 per grant and Mentored Research Scholar Awards are for a maximum of $40,000 per grantApplications for smaller awards are encouraged and applicants should provide thorough justifications for proposed budgetsGrants are for a one-year period and are not renewableIRB approvals must be in place before funds can be dispersed

Application Details: The required cover page and instructions can be found here.

Application Deadline:  October 15, 2021


General Pilot Awards: Faculty members

Eligible applicants must have a faculty appointment equivalent to Assistant Professor or Staff Scientist or above in any track at a Penn CFAR institution (or a commitment for such an appointment at the time the award would start). 

For junior faculty applicants, a one-page mentorship plan with a senior faculty member is strongly encouraged; for non-HIV/AIDS investigators of any level, a partnership plan with an established HIV/AIDS investigator is also encouraged.

Mentored Research Scholar Awards: Young Investigators (Pre-Faculty)

Young investigators at the Instructor/Research Associate/Staff Scientist level who are poised to begin an independent research program within a mentored environment at a Penn CFAR institution are eligible for mentored awards. Senior fellows will also be considered if they have institutional commitment for a Pre-Faculty position at the time the award will start.

Mentored Research Scholar Award applications must include a letter of support from their scientific mentor. For fellows, an institutional letter of support is also required. In addition to these letters, a one-page mentorship plan is required.  Guidelines for the Mentorship Plan are available through the CFAR website.         

If you have any questions about eligibility, please contact Developmental Core Director (Liz Lowenthal, MD MSCE;

Community-based Organizations & Department of Health: Please contact Kate Gordon at for more information about eligibility.

Clinical Studies:  The NIH has restrictions on the type of clinical studies that can be supported by CFAR Pilot Grants. If you are planning to propose a human intervention study (biomedical, behavioral, etc.), please contact Dr. Lowenthal so we can help ensure that your study, if approved, could be supported by available funds. 

Use of Fetal Tissue: Research plans using fetal tissue are not permitted in pilot awards.

International Applications:   

  • Applications with research activities in Botswana must be discussed with and approved by Dr. Robert Gross prior to preparation of the application.
  • Applications that include planned research activities at other international sites outside the U.S. should be discussed with Dr. Liz Lowenthal prior to preparation of the application. 

The required cover page and instructions can be found here.

Successful awardees will be required to submit periodic progress reports and to take part in mentoring activities and feedback seminars. Pilot recipients will be followed for a 5+ year period following the close of the award for additional NIH reporting requirements. 

For further information or questions please contact:


Elizabeth Lowenthal, MD MSCE

Director, CFAR Developmental Core


Una O’Doherty, MD PhD

Co-Director, CFAR Developmental Core


Kate Gordon

Executive Director, Penn CFAR


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