The Penn Mental Health AIDS Research Center (PMHARC) Developmental Award Program

About our Pilot Projects Program

The Developmental Core (Core B) of the Penn Mental Health AIDS Research Center (PMHARC) seeks to connect researchers to the Center’s integrated research infrastructure to stimulate new research and support investigators as they design and implement innovative biological and behavioral studies on the treatment of mental illness among individuals with HIV, in part through the funding of short term (one-year) pilot projects.  The particular focus of Core B is on the development of early stage investigators, transitional investigators and collaborations that have the capacity to develop and test innovative, integrated treatments to optimize psychiatric, behavioral, and medical outcomes and to achieve a better understanding of the biological, psychological, and behavioral mechanisms underlying these combined illnesses and treatments. 

Concordant with the mission of the PMHARC, pilot funds will support: 1) early stage investigators (ESIs) who are beginning their research careers in mental health and HIV research; 2) established mental health investigators who have not studied HIV/AIDS; ; 3) established HIV/AIDS researchers who have not examined the biological or behavioral aspects of psychiatric disorder in the patients and populations they study; and, 4) established  investigators who have not directed their research at issues of combined mental health and HIV research.  

Additional information:

Pilot concepts are expected to be responsive to the research priorities of the:

•    Penn Mental Health AIDS Research Center http://www.med.upenn.edu/pmharc

•    AIDS Program of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/organization/dar/index.shtml

•    NIH Office of AIDS Research https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-15-137.html

•    National Initiative to End the HIV Epidemic by 2030 https://www.hiv.gov/federal-response/ending-the-hiv-epidemic/overview

Studies involving human subjects may utilize clinical and lab assessments overseen by the Clinical Assessment Core and the Laboratory and Biobehavioral Markers Core.  

For further information, please contact Chelsea Voytek, MPH at chelseav@pennmedicine.upenn.edu and Lily Brown, PhD, Director of Developmental Core at lilybr@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.

Funded Pilots

  • Understanding culturally responsive mental health treatment for BIPOC communities living with HIV.  Amber Calloway, PhD, MA (Psychiatry), Lily Brown, PhD, MA (Psychiatry)
  • Association between retention in care, psychiatric comorbidities, and outcomes of care in US Veterans with HIV infection.  Ravishankar Jayadevappa, PhD, MS (Penn Medicine), Sumedha Chhatre, PhD, MS (Psychiatry)
  • Describing factors affecting the Integration of depression and tobacco use treatment for people with HIV receiving TB care services in Botswana.  Bogadi Loabile, MD, MPH (Penn Medicine), Robert Gross, MD, MSCE (Penn Medicine), Robert Schnoll, PhD (Psychiatry), Frances Barg, PhD,MEd (Family Medicine and Community Health), Billy Tsima MMed, MSCE (University of Botswana), Botshelo Kgwaadira MD, MSCE (Botswana-University of Maryland School of Medicine Health Initiative)
  • Exploring Adolescent’s Preferences for the Delivery of Mental Health Services in Primary Health Care Facilities in South Africa.  Andrew Medina-Marino, PhD, MPH, MS (Psychiatry), Ernesha Webb Mazinyo, DPA, MPH (Desmond Tutu Health Foundation)
  • The role of inflammation in the association between oral and mental health among patients living with HIV.  Temitope Omolehinwa, DMD, DScD (Penn Dental Medicine), Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, PhD (Penn Dental Medicine), Cagla Akay-Espinoza MD (Penn Dental Medicine)


  • Developing a Machine Learning Method to Increase HIV/HCV Prevention and Care and Substance Use Treatment in People Who Inject Drugs.  Man Pui Sally Chan, PhD (Annenberg), Dolores Albarracín, PhD, MA (Annenberg).
  • Assessing and reducing suicide risk among individuals with an opioid use disorder who are at high risk for HIV: A pilot, open-trial feasibility study.  Lily Brown, PhD (Psychiatry), Michael Blank, PhD (Psychiatry)
  • Examining the Feasibility of a Bullying-Specific Trauma Intervention for Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) with Adolescent Bullying Victimization to Reduce HIV/STI Risk.  Charles Cange, PhD, MSc (Delaware State University), Bruce Rapkin, PhD (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
  • Assessing the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on HIV and HCV Epidemiology Among Individuals Who Inject Drugs.  Bita Fayaz Farkhad, PhD (Annenberg), Dolores Albarracín, PhD, MA (Annenberg)
  • Awareness, attitudes, and capacity for patient outreach in cure-related research among HIV care providers in Philadelphia.  Steven Meanley, PhD, MPH (Nursing)
  • Characterization of rhesus macaque frontal cortex and basal ganglia cell type-specific transcriptomes in a post-SIV infection time course.  Benjamin Reiner, PhD (Psychiatry), Matthew Hayes, PhD (Psychiatry), Dennis Kolson, MD, PhD (Penn Medicine)
  • Neuropsychiatric complications of COVID19 in HIV: A clinical and 7T MRI Pilot Study.  Matthew Schindler, MD, PhD (Penn Medicine), Dennis Kolson, MD, PhD (Penn Medicine)
  • Mobile Service Delivery in Response to the Opioid and HIV Epidemics in Philadelphia.  Rebecca Stewart, PhD, MA (Psychiatry), Margaret Lowenstein, MD, MPhil, MSHP (Penn Medicine)
  • The Role of PrEP-Related Stigma In PrEP Persistence among Young Black and Latinx Sexual and Gender Minorities  Dovie Watson, MD, MSCE (Penn Medicine), José Bauermeister, PhD, MPH (Nursing), Robert Gross, MD, MSCE (Penn Medicine)
  • Integration of Medication-Assisted Treatment and HIV Prevention Strategies Among Publicly-Insured Adolescents and Young Adults Living with Opioid Use Disorders in Philadelphia  Maria Cristina Herrera, MD (CHOP) and Nadia Dowshen, MD, MSHP (CHOP)
  • Immune dysregulation and neurodegeneration in adolescent SIV infection: radiographic and neuropathologic correlates  Jennifer McGuire MD MSCE (CHOP), Judith Grinspan, PhD (CHOP), Steven Douglas, MD (CHOP), Kelly Jordan-Scuitto, PhD (School of Dental Medicine)
  • Identification of molecular signature of HIV infected cells in CNS using single cell multi-omics technology  Yijing Su, PhD (Neuroscience) and Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, PhD (School of Dental Medicine)
  • Mental Health, Substance Use Disorder, and HIV Care Re-engagement among People Living with HIV Involved in the Criminal Justice System  Daniel Teixeria da Silva, MD (Penn Medicine), José Bauermeister, PhD, MPH (Nursing), Christina Kang-Yi, PhD (Penn Medicine), David Mandell, ScD (Psychiatry), Bruce Herdman, PhD, MBA (Philadelphia Department of Prisons), Evan Anderson, JD, PhD (Nursing and Penn Medicine)
  • Understanding Participant Experience in the BEAT-HIV PEG-IFN +/- Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies Clinical Trial. Fran Barg, PhD, MEd (Family Medicine and Community Health),   Katharine Rendle, PhD (Family Medicine and Community Health)
  • Exploring the role of working memory difficulties in repetitive negative thinking, anxiety and depression, and medication adherence in HIV-positive adults. Keith Bredemeier, PhD (Psychiatry) and J. Cobb Scott, PhD (Psychiatry)
  • Use of Perceptual Mapping to Produce a PrEP Communication Strategy for Young Trans Women. Marné Castillo, PhD, Med (CHOP), Sarah Bauerle Bass, PhD, MPH (Temple University College of Public Health), Sarah Wood, MD (CHOP)
  • Supporting PrEP Initiation and Mental Health Screening in Community Care Settings with Automated, Proactive Text Messaging. Krisda Chaiyachati, MD, MPH, MSHP (Penn Medicine), Helen Koenig, MD, MPH (Penn Medicine), Natalie Lee, MD, MPH (Penn Medicine)
  • Computational design of novel antagonists for the Neurokinin-1 receptor. Cesar de la Fuente, PhD, MSc (Psychiatry, Bioengineering, Microbiology), Steven D. Douglas, MD (CHOP)
  • Preventing new HIV infection among women with and without mental illness comorbidity. Jessica Fishman, PhD (Annenberg School of Communication and Psychiatry), David Mandell, ScD (Psychiatry), Sarita Sonalkar, MD, MPH (Penn Medicine), Helen Koenig, MD, MPH (Penn Medicine)
  • Neural correlates of neurocognition associated with adherence to antiretroviral therapy. Paul Regier, PhD (Psychiatry), Anne M. Teitelman, PhD, CRNP (Nursing), Anna Rose Childress, PhD, MA (Psychiatry), Hasan Ayaz, PhD, MS (Drexel University School of Biomedical Engineering)
  • Opioid Use Disorder, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and Neuroinflammation.  Reagan Wetherill, PhD, MA (Psychiatry), Henry Kranzler, MD (Psychiatry), Rebecca L. Ashare (Psychiatry), Jacob Dubroff, MD, PhD (Penn Medicine)
  • Differences in nicotine metabolism in HIV positive individuals on antiretroviral therapy. Cedric Bien-Gund, MD (Penn Medicine) and Robert Gross, MD, MSCE (Penn Medicine)
  • Burden of Chronic conditions among persons with comorbid HIV/AIDS and mental illness. Sumedha Chhatre, PhD (Penn Psychiatry) and George Woody, MD (Penn Psychiatry)
  • "Exploring the relationship between gut microbiome alterations, posttraumatic stress disorder, and viral load suppression in HIV+ individuals". Sara Kornfield, PhD (Penn Psychiatry) and Brendan Kelly, MD, MSCE (Penn Medicine)
  • Cellular biomarkers of innate immunity in peripheral blood leukocytes of adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder. Tami Benton, MD (CHOP) and Sergein Spitsin, PhD (CHOP)
  • Using Natural Language Processing to Identify Depression in Patients with HIV. Lyle Ungar, PhD (CHOP) Paul Crits-Cristoph (Penn Psychiatry), and Brenda Curtis, PhD, MsPH (NIH)
  • Expanding an adapted adolescent friendship bench to explore substance use in youth living with HIV and Youth At Risk for HIV acquisition. Merrian Brooks, DO, MS (CHOP) and Elizabeth Lowenthal, MD, MSCE (CHOP)
  • Depression as a determinant factor to immune cell activation and HIV infection in persons who inject drugs. Krystal Colón-Rivera, PhD (Wistar Institute) and Luis Montaner, DVM, PhD (Wistar Institute)
  • Understanding the significance of cardiac arrhythmias detected by continuous, non-invasive monitoring in HIV infected smokers. Rajat Deo, MD, MTR (Penn Medicine) and Rebecca Ashare, PhD (Penn Psychiatry)
  •  HIV/AIDS knowledge, risks, and stigma among people with mental disorders in rural China. Yin-Ling Irene Wong, PhD, MA (Penn Social Policy and Practice and Psychiatry)
  • Sex Differences in Synaptophagy of Human Neurons by HIV-exposed Human Microglia. Stewart Anderson, MD (CHOP) and Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, PhD (Penn Medicine)
  • Prevalence and Correlates of Suicidal Ideation and Behaviors in Patients with Concomitant HIV and Chronic Pain. Martin Cheatle, PhD (Penn Psychiatry), Cecile Denis, PhD (Penn Psychiatry), Michelle Naps, PhD (Veterans Administration)
  • Adipose inflammation in lipodystrophy and metabolic dysfunction. David Hill, MD, PhD (CHOP) and Mitchell Lazar, MD, PhD (Penn Medicine)
  • Depression and Social Support along the PrEP Care Continuum. Sarah Wood, MD (CHOP) and Ian Frank, MD (Penn Medicine)
  • Repurposing Metformin to Attenuate Nicotine Withdrawal among HIV-infected Smokers.  (Rebecca Ashare, PhD (Penn Psychiatry) Robert Schnoll, PhD (Penn Psychiatry) Caryn Lerman, PhD (Penn Psychiatry) Frank Leone, MD (Penn Medicine))
  • NS2359 in HAND.  (Wade Berrettini, MD, PhD (Penn Psychiatry))
  • Nicotinic receptor mechanisms in HIV-associated depression. (Mariella De Biasi, PhD (Penn Psychiatry) Dennis Kolson, MD, PhD (Penn Neurology))
  • Prevalence of cardiovascular risk in HIV positive psychiatric patients in Botswana (Mentor: Robert Gross, MD, MSCE (Penn Medicine)  Billy Tsima, MBBCh (University of Botswana, Family Medicine, Gabarone, Botswana) Mosepele Mosepele, MBBCh (University of Botswana, Medicine, Gabarone, Botswana) Philip Opondo, MBCHB, MMed (University of Botswana, Psychiatry, Gabarone, Botswana) Warren Bilker, PhD (Penn Biostatistics and Epidemiology))
  • Brain and behavioral impact of safe sex public service announcements on HIV infected adolescents.  (An-Li Wang, PhD (Penn Psychiatry)  Elizabeth Lowenthal, MD, MSCE (Penn Biostatistics and Epidemiology and Pediatrics, CHOP) Helen Koenig, MD (Penn Medicine))
  • Understanding Causal Pathways Between SMI Symptoms and HIV Risk Behaviors.  (Fran Barg, PhD, MEd (Family Medicine and Community Health), Puneet Sahota, MD, PhD (Psychiatry), Chelsea Voytek, PhD (c) (Psychiatry))
  • Motivational Anhedonia as a Target of Intervention for HIV+ Individuals with Schizophrenia or Depression. (Mary Beth Gibbons, PhD (Psychiatry), Paul Crits Christoph, PhD (Psychiatry), Robert Gross, MD, MSCE (Medicine/ID and Epidemiology))
  • HIV Related Outcomes and Psychosocial Risk Factors for Depression Among HIV+ Pregnant Women in Philadelphia.  (John B. Jemmott III, PhD (Annenberg School of Communication and Psychiatry), Florence Momplaisir, MD, MSHP (Temple University- Infectious Disease); Kathleen Brady, MD (Medical Epidemiologist, Philadelphia Department of Public Health), Pamela Geller, PhD(Psychology and Public Health OB/GYN), Emily Anderson, BS (Student MPH))
  • Neuroinflammation and Dysregulation of the Antioxidant Response in HIV+ Individuals with Depression.  (Dennis L. Kolson, MD, PhD (Neurology), Stephanie A. Cross, MD, PhD (Psychiatry))
  • Developing and Validating Culture-Specific Measures of Stigma of HIV and Mental Illness in Botswana and the United States. (Philip Opondo, MBCHB(University of Botswana- Psychiatry) Ari Ho-Foster, MSc (Medicine) Morekwe Selemogwe, PhD (University of Botswana-Psychology), Seipone Mphele, PhD (University of Botswana-Psychology), Lawrence Yang, PhD (Mailman ? School of Public Health), Michael Blank, PhD (Psychiatry))
  • Prevalence and Type of Psychiatric Diagnoses Among Hospitalized Patients with HIV Infection. (Sabrina A. Poole, Psy.D (Psychiatry), George Woody, MD (Psychiatry))
  • A Brief Computerized Battery for Assessing HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders: Validation and Relation to Plasma Biomarkers. (J. Cobb Scott, PhD (Psychiatry) Ruben C. Gur, PhD (Psychiatry)
  • Metabolomics and Lipidomics Analysis of Blood Metabolites from HIV+ Patients Treated for Insomnia with Comorbid Depression. (Aalim Weljie, PhD (Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics), Matt Kayser, MD, PhD (Psychiatry))
  • Stress Reduction Training to Target Psychological and Pathophysiological Mechanisms Implicated in HIV, Depression, and Co-Morbid Inflammatory Conditions. (Jeffrey M. Greeson, PhD (Psychiatry), Michael Thase, MD(Psychiatry))
  • CSF and Plasma sCD163, FABP3 and sIR as Biomarkers of Neuropsychiatric Impairment in HIV-Seropositive Women (Steven Arnold, MD (Psychiatry), Valerie E. Wojna, MD (Neurology, University of Puerto Rico), Steven D. Douglas, MD (CHOP))
  • Does the Severity of Substance Use Disorders Affect Neurocognitive Functioning of HIV+ Patients? (Donna Coviello, PhD (Psychiatry), George Woody, PhD (Psychiatry/Addictions))
  • Barriers to Engagement and Retention in Care among HIV+ Transgender Youth with Psychiatric Co-Morbidities (Nadia L. Dowshen, MD (Pediatrics, CHOP), Frances K. Barg, PhD, MEd (Family Medicine and Community Health), Marne Castillo, PhD, MEd (Connect to Protect CHOP), Benoit Dubé, MD (Psychiatry), Linda A. Hawkins, PhD (Gender and Sexuality Development Clinic, CHOP))
  • The Impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on HIV care Retention (Carmen McLean, PhD (Psychiatry), Edna Foa, PhD (Psychiatry))
  • A Pilot study of Lifestyle Modification for Weight Loss in Persons with Obesity, HIV/AIDS and Major Depression (David Sarwer, PhD (Psychiatry), Lucy Hemsley-Faulconbridge, PhD (Psychiatry), Rexford S. Ahima, MD, PhD (Medicine))
  • Computer-Assisted Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Depressed, HIV+ People Taking Antiviral Medications (Michael Thase, MD (Psychiatry))
  • Mid-Life Cognitive Function in HIV+ Individuals: Impact of Endocrine and Immune Status (C. Neill Epperson, MD (Psychiatry), Liisa Hantsoo, PhD (Psychiatry))
  • Treatment of Insomnia with Zaleplon in HIV Positive Patients with Comorbid Depression (Matthew Kayser, MD, PhD (Psychiatry), Michael Thase, MD (Psychiatry))
  • The Impact of Personal Relevance and Depression on Brain and Behavioral Effects of HIV Prevention PSAs in HIV-Positive MSM (Daniel Langleben, MD (Psychiatry), An-Li Wang, D.Phil (Annenberg))
  • Predictors of HIV-Associated Psychiatric Distress and Neurocognitive Decline in a Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Sample (Iman Martin, PHD, MPH, M.Sc. (Psychiatry), Ruben Gur, PhD (Psychiatry), Raquel Gur, MD, PhD (Psychiatry))
  • Immune and Neuroimaging Biomarker Correlations between Depression and HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders in HIV-Infected Youth (Jennifer McGuire, MD (Neurology, CHOP), Brenda Banwell, MD (Neurology, CHOP), Tami Benton, MD (Psychiatry, CHOP), Linda Hawkins, PhD, LPC (Pediatrics, CHOP))
  • Evaluation of the HIV Treatment Cascade for HIV-Infected Persons with Mental Illness (Baligh Yehia, MD, MPP, MSHP (Medicine/ID), Kathleen Brady, MD (Philadelphia Department of Public Health), Benoit Dube, MD (Psychiatry), Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH (Epidemiology and Nursing), Robert Gross, MD, MSCE (Medicine/ID and Epidemiology))

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