Get More Out of Your CTSI Grant Applications

Junior Investigator Funding Pathways blog image
The CTSI is implementing a new forum this May to help junior investigators become independently funded. In addition, several “funding pathways” will be introduced that set a framework for investigators to revise their scientific proposals for KL2 Mentored Career Development and CTSI Pilot awards into proposals for K or R21 awards from the National Institutes of Health.

The twice monthly Research Methods Forum will focus on multidisciplinary research methods and will offer investigators the opportunity to share research ideas and receive constructive criticism from their peers. The forum is open to investigators of all ranks whether or not they are applying for CTSI funding. However, junior investigators will particularly benefit from the opportunity to interact with potential collaborators and receive thorough feedback on their proposed research early in project development.

Of course, the main goal and benefit of the forum is to help junior investigators obtain funding and progress to independence and the CTSI’s new funding pathways will facilitate this. The pathways guide investigators through a process to repurpose existing CTSI grant proposals for new funding opportunities. Timelines are also included in the pathways to ensure investigators don’t miss important submission deadlines. That means an investigator could submit a KL2 application in November, and use it for the base of a K08 or K23 application in February.

Funding pathways currently exist for both NIH K award-eligible and non-eligible investigators and both pathways encourage submission for NIH awards while the CTSI award applications are still under review. CTSI funding decisions will not be influenced by whether an investigator also applies for a NIH award.

Junior investigators interested in applying for funding through one of these pathways must present their research ideas at the Research Methods Forum at least 2-4 months prior to submitting their KL2 or CTSI Pilot award applications. Watch the CTSI weekly update for reminders about upcoming Forums.

To learn more about CTSI funding opportunities and pathways or the Research Methods Forum, contact

Career growth

2015 Incubator Awardee: Michael Zuscik, MS, PhD


Michael Zuscik, MS, PhD

Dr. Michael Zuscik, Associate Professor of Orthopaedics, and Director of Educational Programs at the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, will serve as the Principal Investigator for the 2015 CTSI Incubator project.  The central focus of Dr. Zuscik’s research can be divided programmatically into two parts: 1) the study of the contribution of chondrogenesis and chondrocyte differentiation to the process of fracture repair and 2) the study of the behavior of the articular chondrocyte under normal conditions in healthy joints and during pathologic situations such as joint degeneration. The complex interplay between several key signaling mechanisms, including the TGF-beta, Wnt/beta-catenin and PTH/PTHrP pathways, are important for modulating chondrocyte differentiation and physiology and thus have a critical contribution to play during the fracture healing and joint maintenance/disease.

Dr. Zuscik will lead a collaborative team of multidisciplinary researchers from various departments across the Medical Center. The co-investigators on the project are:

  • Robert Mooney, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • Cheryl Ackert-Bicknell, PhD, Associate Professor of Orthopaedics
  • Brendan Boyce, MD, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • Hani Awad, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Danielle Benoit, PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Edward Schwarz, PhD, Director of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research
  • Din Chen, PhD, Professor, School of Nursing

The title of their collaborative Incubator project is “Mechanisms of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes-induced Musculoskeletal Comorbidities.” Breakthrough discoveries made by the group over the past several years have uncovered a previously underappreciated pathological impact of obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) on the musculoskeletal system. Among established effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems, it has been established that obesity/T2D impacts musculoskeletal disease burden in the context of accelerated osteoarthritis (OA), increased risk of implant-associated S. aureus infection and osteomyelitis, and delayed bone fracture healing.

Recent progress in these three specific areas has led to the emergence of separate projects within the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, each designed to elucidate the molecular and genetic basis of disease comorbidity as the precursor to translating basic mechanistic information into candidate therapeutic strategies. This program’s design aims to build towards an NIH P01 application, aligns with the institution’s strategic plan to approach systems biology questions using a big-data analytical approach, and accelerates the pace of discovery by translating basic science knowledge into therapeutic approaches with clinical impact via highly collaborative research.

Additionally, this research program aligns with the CTSI’s major initiatives in Community Health focused on obesity/T2DM and it is expected that this project will synergize with these initiatives in the future. Overall, the proposed program will leverage already available NIH P30-supported resources to provide two key Core Services that will support activities in the three projects which include investigations into how obesity/T2D-induced synovial insulin resistance accelerates OA. An investigative and advisory team has been assembled from two institutions and from six departments within the University of Rochester to collaboratively pursue these distinct scientific directions within the overarching theme of investigating the mechanisms underlying the effects of obesity/T2D on the skeleton.

Director’s Update – Applying for a New Collaborative Innovation Award

Every month, the CTSI Stories Blog will post excerpts from ongoing conversations with the institute’s co-directors. This month, Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D. discusses a new funding opportunity that encourages investigators to streamline the process of translating initial discoveries into patient care in collaboration with other CTSA institutions.MartinZandNEW

What is the new Collaborative Innovation Award?

This award was announced by the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) last spring. Part of the mission of NCATS is to accelerate clinical and translational research. That means figuring out ways to move research from initial discoveries into patient care. This new award is designed to fund research that removes a barrier to advancing research from one phase to another. For example, a researcher discovers a new potential therapy for cancer. The researcher has tested it in the lab and wants to move it to a preclinical trial. There are many barriers to making that leap. These awards encourage investigators to find innovative ways to minimize those barriers and streamline that process.

What sorts of projects are they hoping to fund?

NCATS is interested in a broad range of research topics. These awards might fund projects aimed at educating people to become research coordinators to combat the current labor shortage in clinical and translational research.  Aiding research volunteer enrollment is also an area of interest. Some examples are: improving clinical trial enrollment by using informatics to help identify people with rare diseases and ensure that the study participants reflect the makeup of the whole community, or using internet-based research consent forms to enroll volunteers in clinical trials.

How do these awards foster collaboration?

There is a very large move at NCATS to encourage scientific team formation and center collaboration across clinical research in this country. Part of the reason is that we are stronger together as research centers than we are individually in terms of being able to enroll large numbers of individuals for research studies. However, one barrier addressed by these awards is that we are sometimes weaker together because we don’t have standardized methods and processes.

That is why NCATS is changing the way it funds research.  There are a number of funding opportunities now that require collaboration between three or more Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) hubs and at least one outside collaborator. The goal is for the CTSA network to really function like an integrated network – not as a bunch of institutions doing their own thing.

 Have we had any success obtaining any of these grants?

These grants were just created last year. The first round of full applications will be reviewed in the fall, and we will know if any were funded in December. So far, we have written letters of collaboration and support for 12 pre-applications and 3 full applications ranging from establishing an education program for regulatory science to assessing the effectiveness of KL2 Mentored Career Development Awards and creating a new individual development program for those awards. These are in partnerships with institutions that span the country. We’re really excited about these applications – they give us a formal way of collaborating with other centers.

Who can apply?

These grants can be submitted by any investigator at an institution that currently has a funded CTSA, like the University of Rochester.  All that an investigator needs is a letter of support from their CTSA.

How can investigators apply?

Applications for Collaborative Innovation Awards can be submitted three times a year and involve a two-step process. The six-page pre-application, called X02, is reviewed like a normal grant. Based on the reviews, the program officer either encourages or discourages you from submitting a full application, or U01.

The U01 is a standard twelve page NIH grant application that includes a budget, a list of personnel, and all of the usual paperwork that goes with a grant. These grants can be $500,000 – $1 million per year for up to 5 year grant period – so, pretty big awards!

What advice do you have for investigators who are interested in applying?

We encourage investigators who are thinking about putting in applications to talk to us early.  The CTSI can help them find partners at other CTSA institutions and help them take full advantage of the available resources for their studies.

Anyone who would like more information about these awards should contact Carrie Dykes, Ph.D., CTSI Research Engagement Specialist,, (585) 275-0736.



RocHackHealth: Rochester Healthcare Data Hack-A-Thon April 8-10

data_backgroundThe University of Rochester’s Goergen Institute for Data Science, Rochester Center of Excellence in Data Science, Rochester Center for Health Informatics, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Center for Integrated Research and Computing, are co-sponsoring the RocHackHealth: Rochester Healthcare Data Hack-A-Thon on April 8th-10th, 2016. The goal of the event is to improve healthcare using data science.

This event is a follow-up to the Healthcare Deep Data Dive (ROCHD3) which was held in November 2015. During this event healthcare data hackers, app designers, entrepreneurs, students, healthcare professionals, and tech developers worked together to identify obstacles in utilizing healthcare data.The RocHackHealth event will try to solve some of these obstacles as Hackers form teams to compete to solve specific problems within datasets. The data sets that will be used are

  • Hospital readmissions
  • Identification of physician prescribing patterns
  • Identification / Visualization of physician teaming practices

This 2.5 day event will be a fun and exciting educational experience generating potentially high-impact solutions to problems both public and private researchers are currently facing. Prizes will be awarded to the winning team in each category. Registration is FREE (but required). Teams should register together and individuals requiring a team are welcome. Registration will close on April 4th or when we reach 100 participants (which ever comes first) Click here to see the full schedule of events, register or for additional information.

Save the Date: 2nd Annual Rochester Global Health Symoposium April 21st

wearable-technology-in-healthcareThe Global Network and the UNYTE Translational Research Network present the 2nd Annual Rochester Global Health Symposium and UNYTE Scientific Session: “Can Technology Defeat Health Disparities?”

Featured Topics:
• Technology as a tool to address global health disparities
• Food security
• Zika virus and health diplomacy
• Mobile technologies
• Global cancer prevention and control
• Building partnerships in global health research
• Beginning a career in global health research

This year’s symposium brings together leaders in global health research from Upstate New York and around the world to promote research collaboration, provide networking opportunities and help new researchers begin a career in global health. The one-day event includes timely presentations on global health issues, a poster session, a student poster competition, and breakout sessions. Multiple networking opportunities will give participants a chance to share ideas one-on-one and connect with experts in the field.

Save the Date!
April 21, 2016 – 8:30am to 5:30pm
Saunders Research Building
University of Rochester Medical Center
Rochester, NY

Registration opening soon. Watch for our Call for Posters!!

Does You Research Involve Diverse Populations?

Two upcoming UR conferences will provide opportunities to highlight your research and foster multidisciplinary collaborations.

7th Annual UR Diversity Conference

SD_7DConference_4.8.16The 7th Annual UR Diversity Conference, titled “#URDiversity: What Do You Stand For?” takes place on April 8th on the River Campus.  Showcasing your research at this event may help foster multidisciplinary research teams. Please spread the word to your colleagues and encourage them to answer the Call for Posters. This past year, a number of posters were presented at the CTSI Data Blitz series that may be appropriate for the conference.  The Call for Posters deadline is March 28th.  For details, see

This year’s keynote speaker is Alicia Garza from Oakland, CA, and you can read about her work and activism at the following link,  The intent of the conference is to urge members of the University community to examine how each individual can further diversity and inclusion within the greater societal context.

3rd Annual Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at URMC

The 3rd Annual “Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at URMC,” on Thursday, April 28th, 2016, from 8 am to noon, aims to increase awareness of diversity-related initiatives at URMC and help people connect to these efforts and to one another. (Get the full story on last year’s event.)

stand against racismPosters will be displayed concurrently in Flaum Atrium or Saunders Research Building Atrium. If you would like to propose a display, please contact Grace Fuller by March 28, 2016 by e-mail (  Please let her know the title or topic and the authors or presenters as well as your display needs (e.g. easel, 40×60 inch foam board, table, etc.) and location preference (Flaum Atrium or Saunders Research Building).

This Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at URMC event is just one of the many community activities taking place in April as part of the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism national movement.  Across the country, communities will hold Stand Against Racism events throughout April to help raise awareness about racism and diversity issues.