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Pilot Projects Program

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                             Six Winners Announced



2015 Competition

Forty-three proposals were received.  On January 20th the program review committee met and selected the following six winners:

Murugaiyan Gopal (BWH) — MicroRNA control of inflammatory Th17 cells in Multiple Sclerosis

Gad A. Marshall (MGH/BWH) — Novel performance-based and subjective complex activities of daily living tests for early AD

Jennifer R. Gatchel (MGH) — Examining the association between neuropsychiatric symptoms and markers of Alzheimer’s disease in cognitively normal older adults

Nikolaos Patsopoulos (BWH) — Multiple genes targeting as therapeutic strategy for multiple sclerosis

U. Shivraj Sohur (MGH) — New-generation pipeline for Parkinson’s disease therapeutics targeted to molecular programs of midbrain dopaminergic neuron subtype identity

Marta Olah (BWH) — Microglia Heterogeneity in Healthy Aging and AD – a Mass Cytometry Study



2014 Competition

7 proposals selected for funding by the review committee:

Tao Ho Lee (BIDMC) — Role of DAPK1 on Tau and Amyloid Pathogenesis

Iman Aganj (MGH) — Connectomic Biomarkers of Alzheimer's Disease Observed in Multi-Synaptic Pathways

Martin Reuter (MGH) — Longitudinal Shape & Morph Analysis for High-Sensitivity Detection of Surrogate Biomarkers in Neurodegenerative Disease

Wasim Malik (MGH) — Multiscale Decoding in Neural Prosthetics for ALS Rehabilitation

Susan Frost (BWH) — Investigating lamin dysfunction as a novel mechanism of tau neurotoxicity

Roopali Gandhi (BWH) — Functional Relevance of miR-92a in Multiple Sclerosis

John Yoon (BWH) — Roles of secreted factors in neurodegeneration associated with Leigh syndrome 



2013 Competition

8 proposals selected for funding by the review committee:

Zara Herskovits (BWH) — CSF Biomarkers for ALS

Robin Reed (HMS) — High Throughput Screen to Identify ALS Drug Candidates

Elena Ratti (MGH) — Longitudinal Characterization of the FTD-ALS Spectrum

Wassim Elyaman (BWH) — Identification of Small Molecules that Target Memory T Cells for MS Therapeutics

Paul Rosenberg (BCH) — Abnormal Integrated Stress Response in HD

Vikram Khurana (MGH) — A Comprehensive Stem Cell-Based Screening Platform for Synucleiopathy

Julius Hedden (MGH) — Cognitive Profiles of Imaging Biomarkers in Preclinical AD

Stephen Gomperts (MGH) — Impairment in the Ensemble Representation of Space and Memory in a Mouse Model of AD


2012 Competition

11 proposals selected for funding by the review committee:

Katherina Cosker (DFCI) — A role for Bclw in neurotrophin-dependent prevention of axonal degeneration

Brian Wainger (CHB) — Electrophysiological characterization of ALS patient-derived motor neurons

Jacob Hooker (MGH) — Combined FDG-PET and MRI in early ALS

David Livingston (DFCI) — Is excessive R loop-driven DNA damage a component of ALS pathogenesis?

Teresia Osborn (McL) — Preclinical studies of guanine deaminase as a protector of ALS-related motor neuron death

Shaomin Li (BWH) — Enriched environment prevents AB-impaired LTP viathe B-adrenoceptor signaling pathway

Gabriel Corfas (CHB) — Exploring the links between AD and ErbB4 nuclear signaling

Elizabeth Bradshaw (BWH) — Functional significance of CD33 surface density and its implications for AD susceptibility

Christopher William (MGH) — Synaptic plasticity in Down Syndrome

Tim Bartels (BWH) — Impact of N-terminal acetylation on folding and lipid interaction of alpha-synuclein

Robert Ellis (BIDMC) — Neural mechanisms of motor timing in PD 


For a list of past winners, click here.


The Pilot Projects Program is designed to provide modest, early stage funding that will help an investigator develop a novel idea to the point that it may attract federal or other major grant funding.

The Massachusetts ADRC, and Harvard NeuroDiscovery have joined forces to fund the best novel ideas for innovative pilot projects aimed at understanding and developing treatments for neurologic and neuropsychiatric diseases.

In response to an annual RFA, proposals are assessed by a ten-member Review Committee on the basis of scientific merit, novelty and the value of the project in obtaining preliminary data that could lead to sponsored research (investigator-initiated R01 research grants, career development awards, industry or foundation support).

Clinical, translational and basic research is considered. Priority is given first to junior investigators, then to senior investigators who are new to neurological diseases research, and finally, to established investigators with a new line of investigation that lacks funding. Use of relevant MGH Neurological Clinical Research Institute, Harvard NeuroDiscovery and ADRC cores is strongly encouraged.



1. Applicants should have a doctoral degree (MD, PhD, ScD, PharmD, DO, etc), have undertaken or completed formal research training, and (if the study involves human subjects) have documentation of training in the protection of research participants.

2. An applicant who is a Fellow or Instructor must have a sponsor who is recognized as an independent investigator who is or has been actively involved in neurodegenerative research, has a successful record of providing research training and guidance, and is committed to continued involvement throughout the total award period.

3. Applicants may be U.S. citizens or foreign nationals. Foreign nationals who are not permanent residents are strongly encouraged to identify a U.S. citizen who could serve as Principal Investigator on a sponsored study that could be proposed based on data generated from this grant.

4. It is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain all relevant clearances from the Food and Drug Administration, IRB and animal care agencies. In those instances where an IND is needed, please indicate the status of the IND application in your proposal. At the time of application, any necessary IRB and IACUC approvals must at least have been forwarded to the relevant review committees. Approvals must be completed before awards are made.

5. Funding is intended to be flexible. That is, to be used in a manner most useful to the applicant’s project, including the applicant’s salary and fringe benefits, other personnel supplies or other uses. Equipment requests will not be considered. Funding can be made for work that is supplemental to an ongoing funded research project.

6. This program does not seek to support fellows or others in need of bridging salary support. This is not a fellowship program, but instead aims to support pilot projects that will test novel ideas and approaches.

Selection Criteria

1. Significance. Does this study address an important problem relevant to our understanding, diagnosis or treatment of neurodegenerative diseases? Please note that it is up to the applicant to clearly demonstrate the clinical significance of the proposed project.

2. Prospects. If the aims of the proposed work are achieved, is it likely that a proposal for additional extramural support (federal, industry, or foundation) will be successfully submitted?

3. Approach. Are the conceptual framework, design, methods, and analyses adequately developed, well integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the project? Does the applicant acknowledge potential problem areas and consider alternative approaches?

4. Innovation. Does the project employ novel concepts, approaches, or methods? Are the aims original and innovative?

5. Investigator. Is the investigator or sponsor appropriately trained to carry out this work? In the case of a proposal by a Fellow or Instructor, might the proposed project lead to a career development award?

6. Environment. Does the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Do the proposed experiments take advantage of unique features of the scientific environment or employ useful collaborative arrangements? Is there evidence of institutional support?

7. Collaborative potential. Does the study involve the MADRC or Harvard NeuroDiscovery cores or inter-departmental/inter-institutional collaboration across the community? These criteria will be used to prioritize funding decisions among projects deemed scientifically meritorious.


The Pilot Projects Program benefits from funding from a number of sources. Applications must be responsive to the aims of these funders.

Applications are invited from investigators across the Harvard community and any of the 17 affiliated hospitals and research institutions. Occasionally funding may also support applications from other Massachusetts, not-for-profit research institutions.

Details of these precise policies and catchment area are provided in an RFA that is released October each year.

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