CHERISH Pilot Grant Funding Opportunity 2023-2024

The Pilot Grant & Training Core at CHERISH manages pilot grant awards to support the development and application of methods and dissemination tools for health economics research in substance use disorders, HCV and HIV. The Pilot Grant & Training Core is now accepting pilot project proposals from eligible investigators in the United States for the ninth cycle of funding from 2023 to 2024.

CHERISH seeks to fund health economic research projects on healthcare utilization, health outcomes, and health-related behaviors consistent with our mission.

In this cycle, we particularly encourage health economic research proposals relating to one or more of the following special topics of interest:

  • Drug overdose prevention including, but not limited to, opioid overdoses
  • Syndemics of substance use, HIV, HCV, and related comorbidities
  • Harm reduction strategies
  • Contingency management including, but not limited to, treatment of stimulant use disorders

We are also interested in health economic research that:

  • is related to health disparities, minority health, and/or health equity
  • is consistent with NIH HIV/AIDS research priority areas
  • addresses dissemination and implementation science topics such as affordability and scalability


Applicants must fulfill at least one of the following criteria:

Priority consideration will be given to:

Prospective applicants who need assistance in connecting with a sponsor for mentorship or nomination can email [email protected] for assistance.

Application Timeline & Overview

Step 1

Fill out this form to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) no later than Friday, January 27, 2023 to allow time to identify appropriate reviewers. The LOI asks for basic information about the applicant, as well as an overview of the proposed pilot project and team.

Step 2

Email the full pilot grant proposal to [email protected] by Friday, February 24, 2023. Please include the following 14 sections detailed below:

  1. Research Plan (maximum 4 pages):

    • Specific Aim(s) 
    • Significance
    • Innovation
    • Approach

    References do not count toward page totals.

  2. Timeline (maximum 1 page)
    Provide a brief description of the timeline for proposed project. Pilot projects are expected to be completed within one year of receiving funds.
  3. Relevance to the CHERISH mission and NIH priorities for health economics research (maximum 100 words):
    Provide a brief statement describing how the proposal fits with the CHERISH mission and NIH priorities for health economics research described in NOT-OD-16-025.

  4. Relevance to special topics of interest (maximum 100 words):
    If the proposed project involves one or more of the 4 topics listed above, please indicate here. If the proposed project does not include research related to one or more of these topics, please note for this section, “Not Applicable.”

  5. Relevance to health disparities, minority health, and/or health equity (maximum 100 words):
    If the proposed research considers or focuses on health disparities, minority health, and/or health equity, please describe here. If the proposed project does not consider these topics, please note for this section, “Not Applicable.”

  6. Relevance to NIH priorities for HIV/AIDS research (maximum 100 words):
    If the project includes HIV/AIDS populations, please indicate whether and how the project aligns with NIH HIV/AIDS priorities described in NOT-OD-20-018 . If the proposed project does not include HIV/AIDS populations, please note for this section, “Not Applicable.”

  7. Relevance to dissemination and implementation research (maximum 100 words):
    If the proposed research considers or focuses on dissemination and implementation research – how evidence-based practices, interventions, and policies are effectively translated to and used in real-world settings like hospitals, schools, and communities – please describe here. If the proposed project does not consider these topics, please note for this section, “Not Applicable.”

  8. Budget:

    The target range for each award will be $10,000 to $20,000 in total costs. We recommend that indirect cost be waived by the applicant’s institution given the limited availability of funds. Submit a breakdown of cost using the supplemental spreadsheet template. See Budget Pilot Grants.

    All pilot project awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

  9. Budget Justification

    Provide brief justification of each line item in the accompanying budget. Please describe other funding, awarded or pending, available for the proposed project that will supplement the funds being requested. Effort levels here must match the budget; if a person is offering their time in-kind, list that individual on the budget at 0 calendar months (salary info may be left blank). See Budget Justification Template Pilot Grants.

  10. Human Subjects

    Follow the NIH guidelines to describe procedures for ensuring the protection of human subjects. Note, if the project proposal is awarded and involves human subjects research, funding will not be disbursed until proof of human subjects oversight is provided.

  11. Dissemination Plan

    Include a preliminary plan for disseminating study results. All projects should result in at least one publication submission. Presentations at a scientific conference are encouraged. Pilot project grant recipients will be expected to consult with the Dissemination and Policy Core to further develop and execute the dissemination plan to enhance the policy impact of the research project.

  12. Project Relevance to Career Plans and Future Funding

    Describe how this project will fit into your long-term career plans. If the project results will be used to support future grants applications or other funding opportunities, please specify in as much detail as possible the prospective funding opportunity, funding agency, and timeline.

  13. Biosketch
    Submit a biosketch in NIH format. Refer to the NIH page for instructions for “Biographical Sketch Format Page (non-fellowship: approved through September 30, 2024).” Biosketches from collaborators are optional but encouraged.

  14. Letter of Support
    For eligible postdoctoral fellows and trainees, please include a letter from your mentor which details the support the mentor will provide during the project period. Letters of Support from other collaborators are optional but encouraged.

Our Process

The CHERISH Pilot Grant & Training Core will select reviewers with expertise related to pilot project proposal submissions. Reviewers will be CHERISH advisory board members, CHERISH leadership and investigators, CHERISH Research Affiliates, and/or relevant experts identified by these individuals.

Review criteria and the associated scoring system are similar to those employed by the NIH. Pilot project applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Significance
  • Investigator (Review of this criterion will include consideration of the investigator’s biographical sketch and description of career plan)
  • Innovation
  • Approach
  • Environment (review of this criterion will include consideration of the mentor’s letter of support for postdoctoral fellows and trainees)

Applicants will receive written feedback from reviewers on the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal on each of the above-mentioned criteria, as well as Human Subjects and Budget sections. In addition, reviewers will provide feedback to applicants on strategies for external funding beyond the proposed pilot grant and ways to improve the research proposed to increase the likelihood of obtaining this funding.

Pilot Grant Activities

Funded investigators will receive support and guidance from the Pilot Grant & Training Core and CHERISH leadership. Support includes access to training activities, consultation with the Dissemination & Policy Core, and opportunities to connect with additional mentors.

Pilot grant recipients are expected to present their preliminary results and future plans to CHERISH leadership in-person and / or virtually at least once during the grant period.

Principal Investigators of the pilot project grants are required to submit quarterly reports to the Pilot Grant & Training Core, including a final report upon completion of the pilot project.

Q&A Session

This webinar, hosted on December 6, 2022, provides an overview about the eligibility requirements, application process, and program experience. Questions asked by the attendees have been summarized in the FAQ section below. For additional information, please email [email protected].

Does CHERISH consider alcohol use disorder in its definition of substance use disorder?

Alcohol technically does not fall under us because we are funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is the lead NIH institute supporting and conducting research on the impact of alcohol use on human health and well-being. Nonetheless, alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder have significant overlaps. If your project focuses on alcohol use disorder in relation to other substances, such as overlapping or comorbid condition, we will consider the project. Read more on NIDA’s key takeaways on alcohol.

Is the pilot grant awarded to an institution or an individual? As a non-citizen but U.S.-based researcher am I eligible?

The pilot award is typically administered as a subcontract award between Weill Cornell Medicine and the PI’s primary institution for the period of the grant year (May 1 through April 30). If you are at an U.S. institution, you are still eligible even if you are not a U.S. citizen.

How do applicants integrate protected time with their department?

We have a mix of pilot grantees who use the pilot funds for salary or for buying access to a large database. It depends on what your needs are. We see about an equal mix of people using it for salary and project-related needs.

There is also flexibility in the pilot grants. After you are awarded the pilot grant, things may change and the money gets shifted around. Funds may have been part of your FTE previously but may also shift because the data costs more than you anticipated. Conversely, you may not need to use the data for the purposes you thought you did.

Eligibility is based on being a trainee of a CHERISH investigator/affiliate or being nominated by one. How does the nomination process usually look like?

You do not need to have a sponsor in place to apply or submit a letter of intent (LOI). After reviewing your LOI, we can connect you to a potential sponsor within CHERISH. If you are not already connected to a CHERISH Research Affiliate or someone from our network, please reach out to us.

What should I ask from a sponsor (e.g., letter of support or co-authorship)?

At the minimum, a sponsor can review your proposal and acknowledge in a letter of support that your project is a good fit for the CHERISH pilot grant. They do not need specify a time, FTE, or co-authorship commitment.

As a pilot project, is there a typical range of development CHERISH is looking for in the proposals (e.g., Stage 4 study)?

We do not have a specific category or expectation of the study type. Some applicants use the pilot project to supplement their ongoing research or clinical trial with an economic component. The pilot project can also be an investigation in which you are collecting data for your next grant. If the project is new and you’re not sure how it fits with CHERISH, please reach out to us to discuss more at [email protected].

Can I apply with a global health project, or should it be a domestic project?

You can propose research that has a global perspective. However, the institution must be U.S.-based.

In her latest NIH/NIDA career-development project, former pilot grant recipient Rachel Epstein aims to evaluate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of introducing interventions in perinatal care to reduce opioid-related mortality and HCV transmission.

Read the blog post

collage of pilot grant recipients

This year, the CHERISH Pilot Grant & Training Core sought proposals that demonstrated intent to conduct health economics research in substance use, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and HIV, with a particular interest in proposals relating to justice-legal involvement, polysubstance use or non-opioid substance use, or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Read the blog post

While 2020 ushered in challenging moments, the sixth cohort of pilot grant recipients, Ali Jalali, Austin Kilaru, and Hao Zhang, concluded their funding year with new analytical skills and unique accomplishments.

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Photo collage of pilot grant cycle 7 recipients

CHERISH shared a national call for health economic research proposals focusing on health and health care disparities, and selected four recipients to receive the seventh cycle of pilot grant funding from 2021 to 2022.

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Ali Jalali, PhD Dr. Ali Jalali is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Population Health Sciences at Weill Cornell Medical College. He completed his doctorate in economics at the University of Utah. His current research focuses on economic evaluations of interventions for substance use disorders and related conditions. His pilot grant will examine healthcare […]

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Angelica Meinhofer, PhD Dr. Angelica Meinhofer is an Instructor in the Department of Healthcare Policy & Research at Weill Cornell Medical College. She completed her doctorate in Economics at Brown University and previously worked as a Research Economist at RTI International’s Behavioral Health Services, Policy and Economics Research Program where she designed and conducted evaluations […]

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Katherine Wen is a doctoral student in the Department of Policy Analysis at Cornell University. Ms. Wen is working with CHERISH Research Affiliate and Cycle 1 Pilot Grant recipient, Dr. Yuhua Bao, to assess the effects of state policies and practices aimed at improving prescriber use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) on opioid prescriptions […]

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Tyler Bartholomew is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami. Prior to entering the doctoral program, he was the project manager for an HIV and HCV testing, linkage to care, and treatment program at five federally-qualified health centers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as part of his AmeriCorps service. […]

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In collaboration with colleagues at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Dr. Czarina Behrends will assess naloxone distribution patterns, outcomes and required resources in New York City. She will use these data to develop a model for optimal allocation of those resources in order to prevent overdoses. Her project will use geospatial […]

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Dr. Delgado’s pilot grant will assess physician-level variability in opioid drug prescribing practices for six specific diagnoses across multiple specialties. Dr. Delgrado will use the Optum Cliniformatics DataMart national private insurance claims database to estimate excess prescription opioids prescribed by state and nationally, and calculate the resulting excess cost to the health system. Dr. Delgado […]

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