Pilot Project Program


Director of Pilot Projects: Moon-shong Tang, Ph.D.



The four specific aims of the NYU Center's Pilot Project Program (PPP) are to: 1) promote the long-range research interests of the NYU NIEHS Center; 2) foster collaboration between Center members and the NYU community; 3) encourage Center Investigators to explore new research initiatives; and 4) assist promising new investigators in establishing independent research in environmental health sciences. We have been very successful at achieving these four goals.

To further the Center goals, the PPP has been working closely with Center senior leaders. For example, based upon external and internal advisors' suggestions, the PPP recently issued an RFA that emphasized cross-discipline collaborations that utilize the Center's new Integrative Health Sciences Facility Core. Accordingly, we have recently supported four translational pilot research projects that are being conducted collaboratively by both clinician scientists and basic scientists. The PPP has also funded research projects that enabled collaborations between basic researchers and epidemiologists, as well as between senior and junior investigators. The PPP has also supported high risk, yet potentially high reward, pilot projects.


Evaulation of Pilot Project Program

The most measurable achievement of the PPP is the high success rate (>50%, Table below) of research supported by the Pilot Project Program that subsequently developed into full-scale research projects with extramural funding. The following Table and Figure illustrate the pilot dollars invested and the total grant dollars awarded.




Turning Pilot Dollars Into Extramural Grant Dollars (Direct Costs)




Pilot Project Program Management

The PPP is managed by Dr. Tang who, along with Dr. Costa and the Internal and External Advisory Committees, formulates the RFAs and makes funding decisions, following scientific peer review. As shown in the individual write-ups below, the Pilot Project Program is also beneficial in fostering collaborations with investigators outside the Department of Environmental Medicine.


Pilot Project Review and Funding Process

The review and funding of applications to the Pilot Project Program are formalized by having:
1. Published guidelines for content and submission of applications
2. The introduction of RFAs in areas of scientific interest to the Center
3. The requirement of progress reports at the end of the project period
4. External reviewers
5. Utilization of the Center's website for posting Pilot Project information to applicants
6. The introduction of formal ‘NIH study section'-like meetings of reviewers.


Format of Applications

Following the NIH format, the page limit of Pilot Project applications is 5 pages, and the proposal must contain the following sections: 1) Abstract (1/2 page); 2) Specific Aims (1/2 page); 3) Research Strategy (2 pages); 4) Experimental Design and Methods (1/2 page); 5) Preliminary Results (1/2 page); 6) Budget (1/2 page, with justification); and 7) Literature Cited (1/2 page). Awards are for a one-year period and are capped at $40,000. As the awards are short-term in nature, they cannot be used for the purchase of major equipment or to support faculty salaries. Requests for pilot applications are usually offered once per year. These announcements are sent out by mass e-mail to all Center members, to all faculty members of the Departments of Environmental Medicine and Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, and the Departments of Biology and Chemistry at NYU. A representative past announcement for Pilot Projects applications in environmental health sciences follows:

"The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center at New York University School of Medicine, Department of Environmental Medicine, is pleased to announce a pilot project program to support environmental health-related research projects for the year 2008-2009. The purpose of this program is to encourage Center members and faculty in the Environmental Medicine Department and other Departments at NYU to submit new investigator-initiated research proposals that will lead to R0-1 type research projects. For this RFA, the scope of the pilot project research must emphasize cross-discipline collaborations that utilize the Center's new Integrative Health Sciences Facility Core. Attached is a list of human samples that are available for selective translational research.

The total funding for a project is $15,000 - $25,000 (no indirect cost) and is limited to a period of one year. As in the past, the format of the proposal is the same as that of an NIH proposal but for expediency, the total page count is limited to 5 (including Specific Aims, Background and Significance, Preliminary Results, Experimental Approaches and Designs), in addition to references, budget and budget justification."


Review of Applications

Upon receipt of the Pilot Project proposals, Dr. Tang assigns each proposal to two or three ad hoc reviewers to evaluate the proposal for scientific merit. Twenty to forty percent of the ad hoc review members are from other departments at NYU or other institutions. The reviewers each submit a written critique and meet in the same manner as an NIH study section to discuss and assign priority scores to each proposal. The Committee ranks the proposals against all competing applications on the basis of scientific merit, probability of success, potential for development into an R01, and program relevance to the goals of the Center. The reviewers' recommendations are then relayed to , the Center Director, and the Internal Advisory Committee, who serve as the Pilot Project Review Committee/Council and make the final funding decisions.


Monitoring of Awarded Applications

Dr. Tang monitors the Pilot Project research conducted by the investigators on a regular basis and reports any interesting results obtained to the IAC, particularly the generation of preliminary data that can be useful for a larger grant application. Each Pilot Project recipient is required to prepare an R01 type grant application with the preliminary data that has been acquired as a result of Pilot Project funding, as well as a final report to be included with the annual NIEHS progress report.




Pilot Project Award Period 2009-2010:

Title: Epigenetic Changes and Gene Expression Induced by Nickel Exposure in Human Peripheral Blood Cells
Principal Investigator: Max Costa, PhD
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: NIH/NIEHS R01 ES05512 Carcinogenesis of Nickel and Epigenetic Control. $500,000; 09/09-08/11

Title: Endothelial Damage and Repair: Implication in Cardiovascular Effects of PM2.5
Principal Investigator: Lung-Chi Chen, Ph.D. Co-Investigator: Qingshan Qu, M.D.


Pilot Project Award Period 2008-2009:

Title: A Novel Apoptic Pathway in Cell Response to Environmental Carcinogenic Arsenite
Principal Investigator: Chuanshu Huang, Ph.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: NIEHS P42 ES010344. Carcinogenic Metals and Their Interaction with Other Toxicants - Project 3. $278,478; 08/09-07/11

Title: Effects of Ambient Air Nickel on Cardiovascular Hospital Admissions in New York City
Principle Investigator: Morton Lippmann, Ph.D. Co-Investigator: Richard Peltier, Ph.D
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: K99/R00 ES017291(NIH Pathway to Independence Award) Investigating Health Effects From Exposure to Organic Carbon and Nickel Aerosol by Dr. Richard Peltier. $ 633,541; 10/09-09/11. We have also submitted an application for an EPA Clean Air Center Grant (Nov, 2009) that includes a subproject that is based on results from this pilot study.

Title: Whole Genome Amplification and High Density Genotyping of DNA from Serum
Investigators: Anne Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, Ph.D., Isaac Wirgin, Ph.D., Nirmal Roy, Ph.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: R01 CA098661-06A Vitamin D, Related Genes and Breast Cancer Risk. $603,254; 07/09-06/14

Title: Determining the Heritability, Persistence, and Susceptibility to Altered Histone Marks by Nickel and Arsenic Exposure in Two Species of Fishes
Principal Investigator: Isaac Wirgin, Ph.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: NIEHS P42 ES010344 Carcinogenic Metals and Their Interaction with Other Toxicants - Project 2. $228,158; 08/09-07/11


Pilot Project Award Period 2007-2008:

Title: Serum Taurine and Coronary Heart Disease - A Pilot Case-Control Study
Principal Investigator: Yu Chen. Ph.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: 1) AHA0835569D American Heart Association
Taurine and Coronary Heart Disease in Post-menopausal Women. $180,000; 07/08-06/11 2) RO1 ES017541 NIH Genetic susceptibility to cardiovascular effects of arsenic exposure. $437,611; 09/09-06/14

Title: Fine Particles and Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrest in New York City.
Principal Investigator:
Kazuhiko Ito, Ph.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: NIH R01ES014387. Fine Particles and Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest in New York City. $584,658; 04/09-12/11


Pilot Project Award Period 2006-2007:

Title: Genetic Susceptibility Biomarkers of Cr(VI): In Vitro Studies
Principal Investigator:
Qingshan Qu, M.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: NIH R21ES016570 Mechanisms of ambient particulate matter associated cardiovascular diseases: a feasibility study. $303,000; 09/09-08/10

Title: Development of a Fishing-line System for Nose-only Exposures to Precious Materials: World Trade Center Dust
Principal Investigator: Mitchell Cohen, Ph.D. Co-Investigator: Lung-Chi Chen, Ph.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: R01 OH008280 (Cohen) WTC Dust Size and Alkalinity as Factors in First Responder Chronic Lung Ailments. $1,140,355; 07/09-06/13


Pilot Project Award Period 2004-2005:

Title: Environmental Nanomaterials Toxicology
Investigator: Stephen Wilson, Ph.D. Co-Investigator: Lung-Chi Chen, Ph.D.
Accomplishments: Grant funding derived from this project: NIH R01ES015495. Long Term Cardiovascular Effects of Inhaled Nanoparticles. $245,000; 09/06-06/10

Title: Is CAPE an Anti-carcinogen - A Nude Mouse Model
Investigator: Krystina Frankel, Ph.D.
Grant funding derived from this project: Susan G. Komen Award BCTR0600476
Caffeic acid phenethyl ester as Potential Preventive and/or Therapeutic Agent for Breast Cancer. $218,574; 05/06-04/08


Other Funding