Cortical astrocytes in human (left), macaque (middle) and mouse (right) growing in André Sousa's neuroscience lab.

WNPRC Pilot Research Awards


Kiera Leigh Clayton, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Worcester, MA: Development of ImmunoPET VHHs to track NK cells in NHPs. David Evans, WNPRC and University of Wisconsin–Madison, is co-investigator.

Tianling Ou, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Infectious Disease and Microbiome, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA: Eliciting Apex-specific broadly neutralizing antibodies in rhesus macaques using an HCDR3-focused strategy. Collaborators are Michael Farzan, Boston Children’s Hospital and Jessica Phillips, WNPRC.

Chen Sabrina Tan, MD, associate professor of medicine, immunology and microbiology, Department of Medicine, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City: A Novel animal model of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Jessica Phillips, WNPRC, and Samuel A. Hurley, University of Wisconsin–Madison, are co-investigators.


2023 Pilot Awards timeline:

The following RFA is also available in pdf format here.


May 24, 2023: Letter of Intent deadline
July 24, 2023: Full application deadline (if invited)
Sept. 1, 2023: Earliest funding start date

The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center is soliciting proposals for its 2023 pilot grants research program. Pilot research is intended to help investigators generate preliminary data or results necessary to apply for support from other primary sources of funding. Pilot Research Projects may include preliminary activities on biomedical research topics in keeping with the main research areas of the WNPRC (Regenerative and Reproductive Medicine, Global Infectious Disease, Neuroscience, and Energy Metabolism and Chronic Disease) and are typically developmental or exploratory in nature. Investigators at early phases of their careers are especially encouraged to apply. The awards provide a maximum of $50,000 (direct costs) for a two year period. Pilot projects are aimed at helping to solve problems related to human health, and they should lead to independent grant support related to the disease or health problem being studied.


  • WNPRC core scientists shall be integrally involved in planning, management, conducting the project and reporting results, as either lead scientist or collaborating investigator with qualified external scientists.
  • Funds may be used for project personnel not already supported by the WNPRC base grant, supplies including animals and animal care costs, equipment under $5,000 (or over this amount with permission), and consultants and other expenses, such as surgery, pathology, assays or clinical services for the approved project only.
  • Funds are not to be used for interim support of established projects, for investigators funded from other sources, nor for travel.
  • All activities related to the use of NHPs must be conducted on site at the WNPRC. Other activities can be performed at other sites, depending on the nature of the pilot project. If relevant, a subcontracting mechanism within the pilot project can be used to support a component of the pilot project performed outside of WNPRC.
  • Written semi-annual progress reports will be required.
  • Awardees must have UW-Madison IACUC and Biosafety approved protocols in place before receiving pilot project funds.
  • Awardees are expected to submit a manuscript to a peer-reviewed, scientific journal and/or submit a grant application to one or more external agencies as part of the successful execution of the pilot project.
  • The following acknowledgement must be included on all publications that result from WNPRC support (funding and/or infrastructure services): This publication was made possible with Pilot Program support from the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, NIH grant number P51OD011106.


Letter of Intent

Letters of intent will address the following points and should be submitted through our Qualtrics LOI form here:

  • Are you considered to be an early stage investigator? (Yes or no)
  • Brief summary of the scientific plan. (~500 words)
  • Why is this a “pilot” application and how will the data generated be applied to future funding applications? (~100 words)
  • How does the proposed project differ from the PI’s current research? (~100 words)
  • How can the proposed research be accomplished in two years at the requested budget? (~100 words)
  • What animal resources are requested?
  • What WNPRC Research Services will be requested?
  • Indicate affiliated WNPRC core scientist.

Full Application (6-page maximum; 11-pt Arial, single-spaced, ½-inch margins)

Invitees will be sent an application form for their full proposals, which will include the following:

  • Title and specific aims (1/2 page)
  • Significance and innovation (up to 1 page)
  • Approach (up to 3 pages)
  • References cited (1/2 page)
  • Summary budget and justification (up to 1 page)
  • Biosketches for PI and Key Personnel (NIH format; not included in page limit)

Please note that, in addition to the standard NIH format, it is important to include a description of the animal resources needed for the proposal and the WNPRC Research Services, if any, which will be used to carry out the proposed project. This information will be used to determine animal and technical availability.

Prospective applicants are urged to contact the WNPRC Director’s Office or an appropriate core scientist well in advance of proposal deadlines to discuss the project and gain a preliminary assessment of its feasibility and alignment with the WNPRC mission.


Each WNPRC Pilot Project proposal received is subject to confidential project review by external reviewers for scientific merit and feasibility. External referees are selected by WNPRC Executive Committee members (one from each WNPRC Working Group), the Director of the Pilot Project Research Program (PPRP), and the WNPRC Director, based on their scientific expertise. If any

Executive Committee member has any involvement in a pilot project, they will be recused from the review process and will be replaced by another member from the same WNPRC Working Group to maintain a balanced committee roster. The PPRP scoring criteria will be identical to that used for the NIH grant review. If a project is determined to be of high scientific merit, there will be an additional review by the Executive Committee and senior management team for scientific fit with WNPRC goals, future fundability, and feasibility.

Note: All projects must also have an approved UW-Madison IACUC-approved protocol and Biosafety protocol in place before any project can be activated. These can be prepared after initial review and scoring of the proposals.


The five major criteria to be used in evaluating Pilot Research Projects and Resource Related Research Projects are as follows:

  1. Significance: Does this study address an important problem? If the Aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge be advanced? What will the effect of these studies be on the concepts or methods that drive this field?
  2. Approach: Are the conceptual framework, design, including composition of study population, methods, and analyses developed adequately, well-integrated, and appropriate to the Aims of the project? Does the applicant acknowledge potential problem areas and consider alternative tactics?
  3. Innovation: Does the project employ novel concepts, approaches or methods? Are the Aims original and innovative? Does the project challenge existing paradigms or develop new methodologies or technologies?
  4. Investigator: Is/are the investigator(s) appropriately trained and well suited to carry out this work? Is the work proposed appropriate to the experience level of the Principal Investigator and other researchers (if any)? PLEASE DO NOT INCLUDE descriptive biographical information unless important to the evaluation of merit.
  5. 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? PLEASE DO NOT INCLUDE description of available facilities or equipment unless important to the evaluation of merit.


 Please contact the WNPRC Director’s Office at 608-263-3500 or

View past WNPRC pilot research project awardees.