Skip Navigation

Pilot Research Projects

Yerkes NPRC 2021 Pilot Projects

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center is seeking proposals for new pilot research projects that will be funded from the Yerkes P51 base grant. We expect to make two to three awards.

These awards will provide one year of support for up to $70,000 in direct costs.  Although the awards are open to all investigators, 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 researchers outside Yerkes, early career investigators and those new to the use of nonhuman primates (NHPs) in research, as well as applications that propose translational research projects.

 The projects will be judged on their potential to generate high-impact preliminary data that will result in research project grants from outside sources and in peer-reviewed publications. In addition, they must follow ORIP guidelines, which are detailed below.

 Pilot Project proposals should conform to the following guidelines:

  • Pilot research must include activities related to the use of 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.
  • Pilot research should be of sufficient quality to lead to (or contribute to) publication of the results in peer-reviewed publications
  • 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.
  • While the lead investigator (PI) of a pilot project need not be a Yerkes Core Scientist, all pilot research projects must be planned, conducted, and carried out with involvement of at least one Yerkes Core Scientist, and may involve other Yerkes personnel. 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 (see the last page of this announcement).
  • A brief research plan which should specifically address how this project meets the NPRC criteria for pilot research projects and how the project will lead to future funding and publications (or other outcomes). The research plan, which should be no more than 3 pages in length, should also address sex as a biological variable.  Please include the following sections:
    • Summary of the proposed project and specific aims
    • Significance
    • Innovation
    • Approach
    • Expected outcomes
  • Literature cited. This section is not included in the 3-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 4 form (“Detailed Budget for Initial Project Period”) and include only direct costs.
  • 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.

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 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 (this restriction does not apply to sponsoring Core Scientists). Awards are for a single year.  The period of award is May 1, 2021 through April 30, 2022.  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 Yerkes Director Dr. Paul Johnson, via e-mail ( by 5 pm, Friday, January 29, 2021. Late applications will not be accepted.
  • Projects will be reviewed by the Yerkes National Scientific Advisory Board and funds will be awarded with an effective start date of May 1, 2021.


Yerkes NPRC 2020 Pilot Projects

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center selected two coronavirus-related 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: 

Sudhir Pai Kasturi, PhD

Evaluating a new SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) based COVID-19 vaccine with clinical alum and alum adsorbed 3M-052 adjuvants in rhesus macaques

Significance: COVID-19 is a new infectious disease in humans caused by a novel coronavirus (CoV) named SARS-CoV-2. The rapid global spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections highlights an urgent need for a vaccine and/or therapeutics to stem the pandemic.

Specific Aim: To evaluate a new SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) based COVID-19 vaccine with clinical alum and alum adsorbed 3M-052 adjuvants in rhesus macaques


Mirko Paiardini, PhD

Determining SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis, viral dynamics, and immune responses in nonhuman primate models

Significance: Little is known regarding the viral pathogenesis and immune response to SARS-CoV-2. Given the devastation the disease is causing worldwide, it is imperative to elucidate the viral pathogenesis and early immune responses that may inform the treatment of infected individuals, identification of correlates of protection, and design of therapeutics and vaccines.

Specific Aim #1: To characterize the breadth of the early innate and adaptive immune response and pathogenesis of SARSCoV-2 infection systemically and localized within the respiratory tract. 

Specific Aim #2: To assess the replication kinetics and tissue localization of SARS-CoV-2. Thomas Vanderford, PhD, Director of the Yerkes Virology Core will lead this component of the pilot project. 


Yerkes NPRC 2019 Pilot Projects

The 2019 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.