Congratulations to the 2021 CCTS Interdisciplinary Network Pilot Program Awardees. Projects were selected on the basis of scientific merit and alignment with the CCTS mission to understand diseases that have known disparities (e.g. age, ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomics, and environment) and/or that disproportionately affect our regional populations in the Deep South. This year’s awardees will examine heart and liver failure prevention, a precision approach to mental health illness, motivational drivers of hereditary breast cancer screening, novel therapeutic targets for breast cancer, reducing anxiety among breast cancer survivors, and radiological interventions aimed at reducing hemorrhagic stroke

Thirty-one pre-applications were received from applicants representing six partner institutions in response to the request for applications (RFA) launched in September 2020. Of these, 18 investigators were invited to submit full applications. Prior to submitting a full application, applicants met with a member of the CCTS Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) group to ensure methodologic and scientific rigor in study design. Applicants also participated in a Panel Done Quickly (PDQ), arranged by the CCTS Research Commons, which provides a team of peers with expertise tailored to the scientific content to further refine the scientific premise and its presentation. Applicants are encouraged to meet with other units/groups in support of their applications prior to submission as well.

Upon submission of full applications, the CCTS supports a comprehensive process to assess the scientific aims and experimental design of pilot applications and to identify meritorious proposals, engaging reviewers internal to the Hub and our Partner Network. The program also utilizes external academic reviews enabled through the CTSA External Reviewer Exchange Consortium (CEREC).

Since 2015 when the CCTS Partner Network Pilot program began, the CCTS has supported at least one project at every CCTS Partner Institution. The 2021 awardees represent three Partner Network Institutions: UAB, Auburn University, and HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology.

“The CCTS Pilot Program provides support on a competitive basis to investigators across our Partner Network whose projects address pivotal health challenges in our region. It also fosters the ongoing career development of the translational workforce by embracing the central philosophy that early, rigorous and sustained constructive scientific discourse is fundamental to the complex process of therapeutic development,” said Dr. Orlando Gutierrez, the CCTS Deputy Director and CCTS Pilot Program Co-Director.

This year’s funding cycle is May 1, 2021, through April 30, 2022. Awards of up to $60,000 are supported by CCTS’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) UL1TR003096 and complementary resources to foster and support innovative, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional, collaborative research teams focused on ameliorating disparities in diseases that disproportionately affect minority and special populations in the Deep South at any stage of the translational spectrum.

To learn more, contact the CCTS Research Commons (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The 2022 RFA will be released in September 2021. Until then, consider conceptualizing projects and/or multi-site collaborations by reaching out to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and stay tuned to the CCTS Digest.

The 2021 CCTS Pilot Awardees:

Courtney Watts Alexander, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCOP, Auburn University

“Assessment of the impact of clinical pharmacogenomics on real and potential medication use in Veterans with mental health illness”

Mark Bolding, PhD, UAB

“High Intensity Focused Ultrasound for the Treatment of Cerebral Cavernous Malformation”

Sara Cooper, PhD, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology

“Screening for Hereditary Cancer Risk in African Americans”

Andrew Frugé, PhD, MBA, RD, Auburn University

“Synbiotic supplementation to reduce anxiety symptoms in female breast cancer survivors”

Yulia Khodneva, MD, UAB

“Patient-reported perspective on barriers to exercise and acceptance of remotely delivered home cardiac exercise rehabilitation program for heart failure"

Haiyan Qu, PhD, UAB

“Identifying Patient Perceived Barriers and Facilitators to Inform Development of a Prehabilitation Intervention”

Nan Cher Yeo, PhD, UAB

“Werner syndrome RecQ DNA helicase (WRN) as a novel therapeutic target for triple-negative breast cancer”