The Center of Research in Obesity and Cardiovascular Diseases (COCVD) at the University of Kentucky offers pilot project grants through the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). These pilot grants are intended to assist  investigators to generate sufficient data to be competitive for extramural funding in the research area of the relationship between obesity and either cardiovascular disease or COVID-19 or type 2 diabetes or cancer or neurodegenerative diseases.

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Eligibility is limited to full-time regular, special, and clinical title faculty as well as full-time research faculty of the University of Kentucky.  Junior faculty are encouraged to apply.  Senior faculty with new projects of relevance to the COCVD are also eligible for pilot funding.  Current and former key personnel on the COCVD COBRE are not eligible to apply.

  • Pilot projects are solicited once a year.

IRB or IACUC Approvals

Applicants do not need IRB or IACUC approvals to submit a pilot grant application, but necessary IRB or IACUC protocols should be submitted as soon as possible upon notification of the preliminary approval of your application.  This is needed in order to facilitate approval by the NIH for the use of COBRE pilot funds. (These approvals are required before NIH will release the use of funds.)  Funds may not be awarded if necessary IRB/IACUC approvals are not obtained in a timely manner consistent with the grant award period. 


Please provide the following in order:

  1. NIH biosketch with other support
  2. Abstract including project title (one page)
  3. Research proposal (six pages)
  4. NIH budget and justification
  5. Supporting documents (optional)

Combine all pieces of the application into a single WORD file.  Do not use password protection, encryption, digital signature and/or digital certification in the WORD file.   The file should be named “Your Name”-Pilot.doc and emailed to the COBRE program administrative coordinator, Mark Schwarcz.

Expectation of Support

An expectation of support through this program is publication of supported pilot project research in a peer-reviewed journal and submission of a research proposal for consideration of funding.  Supported investigators will also be expected to present a poster at the annual COCVD EAC review meeting and will be required to submit an abstract and present in a poster and/or podium format at either the annual Obesity/Diabetes Research Day symposium or the annual Cardiovascular Research Day symposium.  An annual progress report is also required on May 1 of each year.

  • Supported investigators will have full access to COCVD supported research cores.

Review and Selection

Selection of pilot/feasibility grant recipients is made after proposals are reviewed by a faculty committee. Three reviewers from this committee score and rank each proposal on the basis of merit and relevance to the goals of the COCVD. The committee’s selections are reviewed by the external advisory committee and then the NIH makes the final decision.

Questions about the Application Process

 If you have any other questions related to the application process, contact Mark Schwarcz at or (201) 334-2959.

Pilot Project FAQs

 1. Can my budget include funds for the PI’s salary?
Yes, you must. A PI and a co-I each must have some effort on the project.

2. Is there a limit on salary support?

3. Can I include a letter of support from a key collaborator?

4. The website states that I need “X” but the flyer does not.  Which is correct?
The website has the complete list of requirements.

 5. Can my colleague and I apply as multiple PI’s?
The application should be from a single PI although co-I’s are allowed on the grant.
All co-I's must work at UK.

 6. If I have funding for a project from another source, may I apply for additional funding from the COBRE pilot grant?
Not if there is scientific overlap between the projects.

7. May I budget money for travel to a conference?

8. Is an eIAF required to submit an application?

9. I am not sure if I am eligible to apply.  What should I do?
Contact the COBRE Program Administrative Coordinator, Mark Schwarcz, at

10. When will I find out whether or not my application is successful?
3 – 4 months after the submission deadline

11. Are subcontracts allowed?

12.  Do I need IRB/IACUC approval prior to submission of a pilot award?
You do not need to have protocols approved when submitting a pilot.  However, approval by the NIH requires that human subjects or animal research has already received institutional approvals.  If approvals require extensive periods of time, or are not submitted in a timely manner in relation to initial notification of potential funding, then funds may not be released.

Phase 3 Pilot Projects (Funded by NIH unless indicated otherwise)

Year 1

Nancy Schoenberg, Professor

Adapting an evidence-based mHealth energy balance intervention for a rural, Appalachian population

Robin Shoemaker, Assistant Professor

Cardiac consequences of obesity during pregnancy

Sean Thatcher, Assistant Professor, **Funded by UK-COM Dean’s Office

Effects of obesity and sex chromosomes on heart failure with preserved ejection fraction

Year 2

Qingjun Wang, Assistant Professor

Platelet metabolism in obesity- and diabetes-associated thrombosis

Grace Walton, Assistant Professor

Adipose-specific metabolic effects of exercise-induced skeletal muscle exosomes

Samir Softic, Assistant Professor

Sugar metabolism in development of obesity complications

Rolf Craven, Associate Professor, **Funded by UK-COM Dean’s Office

A novel, targetable link between insulin receptor and low density lipoprotein receptor

Year 3

Kyle Flack, Assistant Professor

Food Reinforcement, Attentional Bias, and Inhibitory Control as Mechanisms of Energy Compensation with Exercise

Christopher Fry, Assistant Professor

Validation of novel small molecule inhibitor to improve outcomes in obesity, insulin resistance and osteoarthritis

Keith Pennypacker, Professor, **Funded by UK-COM Dean’s Office

Obesity-induced proteomic changes in ischemic blood from stroke patients during thrombectomy

Year 4

Adam Bachstetter, Associate Professor

Immune cell transcriptomics in vascular cognitive impairment and dementia

Scott Gordon, Assistant Professor

The role of Dennd5b in intestinal lipid absorption and metabolism

Analia Loria, Associate Professor

Sex-specific effects of perinatal opioids exposure on obesity-related vascular function in rats

Year 5

Nate Helsley, Assistant Professor

Determining the tissue-specific contribution of long chain fatty acid oxidation in sexual dimorphic obesity and associated nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Yasir Al-Siraj, Assistant Professor

Role of the X chromosome gene, Kdm5c, in aortopathies

Young-Sam Lee, Associate Professor

Endogenous ligand for NR4A1 orphan nuclear receptor and systemic metabolism

Marlene Starr, Associate Professor, **Funded by UK-COM Dean’s Office

Does Serum Amyloid A Mediate the Obesity Paradox in a Murine Model of Sepsis?