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Pilot Research Projects

Call for 2020 Pilot Project Applications

Focus is Coronavirus

Proposals are due by 5 pm, Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

In response to the recent novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (NPRC) will be focusing its initial 2020 pilot research project solicitation on projects involving nonhuman primates that help advance efforts to understand, prevent or treat SARS-CoV-2 infection. A separate solicitation for pilot research projects not specifically focused on SARS-CoV-2 will take place in the fall of 2020.

These awards will provide one year of support for up to $70,000 in direct costs. Specific areas of interest include projects related to SARS-CoV-2 replication and pathogenesis, as well as the development of vaccines and therapeutics. Pilot awards are open to all investigators; however, the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure (ORIP) guidelines require the direct involvement of a Yerkes Core Scientist (see details below). We especially encourage applications from early career investigators. 

The projects will be judged on their potential to generate high-impact preliminary data that will result in peer-reviewed publications and research project grants from external sources. 

Yerkes NPRC Pilot Project proposals should conform to the following guidelines from the NIH:

  • Pilot research must include activities related to the use of non-human primates (NHPs) for biomedical research or for studies enhancing the welfare or husbandry of NHPs. 
  • Pilot research should be developmental or high risk and should be used to generate preliminary data or results necessary to apply for support from sources of funding such as NIH R01 grants.
  • All activities related to the use of NHPs must be conducted on-site at Yerkes. Other activities can be performed at other sites, depending on the nature of the pilot project. A subcontracting mechanism within the pilot project can be used to support a portion of the pilot project performed outside of the grantee institution.
  • Pilot research funds may not be used to provide interim support for established projects or for investigations funded from other sources.
  • Pilot projects can be performed either by Yerkes personnel or by qualified personnel who are not Yerkes Core Scientists. The lead investigator (PI) of a pilot project need not be a Yerkes Core Scientist. However, Yerkes personnel must be involved in some capacity in the pilot project.
  • All pilot research projects must be planned, conducted, and carried out under the supervision of at least one Yerkes Core Scientist.  
  • Projects that involve the active participation of investigators external to Yerkes are strongly encouraged, as are projects involving investigators who have not previously used NHPs and projects from early career investigators.

Research proposals should strictly adhere to the requirements below. All text should be in Arial 11 pt font, using 0.5” margins, and at least 12 pt line spacing. Include a header with the PI’s name and a footer with page numbers in the bottom center. Proposals should use the following section headings, with space allocated to each section as needed:           

  • A face page that provides the project title, principal investigator and proposed direct costs (a template is attached to this announcement).
  • A brief,one-page research plan that should specifically address how this project meets the NPRC criteria for pilot research projects and how the project will lead to future funding (or other outcomes). The research plan should include:
  • Summary of the proposed project and specific aims
  • Approach
  • Deliverables and timeline
  • Literature cited (no more than 1 page). This section is not included in the one-page limit for the research plan.
  • NIH formatted biosketch for the Principal Investigator only
  • Budget (personnel, animals, assays, services, etc.). Please use the PHS 398 page 4form (“Detailed Budget for Initial Project Period”) and include only direct costs. Please contact Yoko Hammond ( in advance of your submission to obtain cost information, especially if you plan to use the Yerkes NHP ABSL3 facilities.
  • Budget justification (≤1 page), including brief descriptions of investigators and their roles.
  • ‘Other support’ forms for the PI and/or Core Scientist; potential overlap of the proposed project with existing funding should be explicitly addressed.
  • Please do not include descriptions of available facilities or equipment unless they are critical to the evaluation of the proposal.

Please be mindful of all the stated requirements—proposals that do not meet all of the requirements noted above will not be reviewed. When developing the proposed research plan, applicants proposing to use NHPs should be cognizant of the time required to obtain IACUC protocol approval as well as the time required for animal identification, quarantine, and final assignment. These potential time constraints should be incorporated into the duration of the proposed study.  

For general questions about SARS-CoV-2 studies at Yerkes, please contact Dr. Thomas Vanderford ( For questions related to animal resources please contact the Yerkes Associate Director for Animal Resources, Dr. Joyce Cohen ( For general questions about the pilot grant process, please contact Dr. Paul Johnson (

Principal Investigators are allowed to apply for one proposal per funding cycle and can receive no more than one pilot project award every 2 years. Awards are for a single year. The period of award is May 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021. No-cost extensions with carryover funding are not possible due to the funding process of the P51 parent award.


  • Proposals should be submitted as a single pdf file to Denise Wardlow, assistant to Dr. Johnson, via e-mail ( by 5 pm, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Late applications will not be accepted.
  • Projects will be reviewed and funds will be awarded with an effective start date of May 1, 2020.


Yerkes NPRC 2019 Pilot Projects

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center has selected four pilot projects to fund this year. The projects were selected based on their:

  • potential to generate high-impact, preliminary data that will result in peer-reviewed, research project grants from outside sources; and
  • alignment with NIH and Yerkes goals.

The recipients are:

Kelly Ethun, DVM, PhD, Adam Ericsen, PhD, and Mar Sanchez, PhD

Variability and heritability of milk immunological phenotypes in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

The researchers will study milk immunological profiles in rhesus macaques and their associations with infant gastrointestinal bacterial communities.

Specific Aim 1: To determine what different types of milk immunological phenotypes exist in the Yerkes rhesus macaque breeding colony and whether the phenotypes exhibit familial patterns.

Specific Aim 2: To determine whether these milk immunological profiles predict the composition of infant gastrointestinal microbiome and incidence of infantile enteritis.


Adriana Galvan, PhD, and Thomas Wichmann, MD

A calcium imaging-based platform for studies of parkinsonism and the effects of deep brain stimulation on cortical activity in primates

The researchers will establish techniques to visualize the activity of cortical neurons in awake monkeys, using miniature microscopes and artificial proteins that emit fluorescent signals in response to the levels of calcium in the neurons (as a measure of the cells’ activity).

Specific Aim 1:  To characterize the spontaneous and task-related activity of neurons in the motor regions of the cerebral cortex.

Specific Aim 2: To monitor changes in the activity of the neurons in the motor cortex during electrical stimulation of subcortical brain nuclei.

Specific Aim 3: To assess the temporal stability of the patterns of activity of motor cortex neurons.


Maud Mavigner, PhD, and Guido Silvestri, MD

Inhibiting stemness pathways to reduce HIV persistence in long-lived latently infected memory CD4+ T-cells

The key obstacle to cure HIV infection is a reservoir of latently infected memory CD4+ T-cells that persist despite long-term antiretroviral therapy and are maintained through cellular proliferation. Dr. Mavigner will explore stemness pathways regulating the proliferation of the long-lived central memory (CM) and stem cell memory (SCM) CD4+ T-cells by performing, in the rhesus macaque model, a detailed ex vivo analysis of the impact of pharmacological modulation of these pathways on memory CD4+ T-cell biology and on SIV latency.

Specific Aim 1: To explore stemness pathways that maintain the proliferation and survival of CM and SCM CD4+ T-cells in healthy rhesus macaques.

Specific Aim 2: To investigate the role of stemness pathways on SIV persistence in CM and SCM CD4+ T-cells.

This research project is funded jointly with the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR)


Eduardo Salinas, PhD, and Arash Grakoui, PhD

Defining mechanisms of hepatitis E virus evasion to host antibody responses during acute infection

The researchers will determine how the virally encoded soluble ORF2 (ORF2S) contributes to hepatitis E virus (HEV) replicative fitness in vivo and whether ORF2S promotes evasion of the host antibody response during acute HEV infection.

Specific Aim 1: To determine the contribution of soluble ORF2 to viral replication during acute HEV infection.

Specific Aim 2: To define changes in repertoire and neutralizing activity of HEV-specific antibodies from macaques infected with wildtype or ORF2S-null HEV.