UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC)

Pilot & Feasibility Program

The UNC NORC Pilot & Feasibility Program supports the development of innovative research in nutrition and obesity. The Program is specifically designed to help investigators collect preliminary data sufficient enough to support a grant application for independent research support and published work.

2021-2022 Application Process

Read the 2021-2022 Request for Applications

Pre-Proposal. Interested applicants must first submit a pre-proposal application and an NIH biosketch by 5:00 PM on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Submit your biosketch as a PDF and complete the online pre-proposal application here. Applicants are encouraged to identify a mentor at UNC in advance of preparing the pre-proposal application. The UNC NORC Internal Advisory Committee will evaluate the pre-proposal applications and notify applicants no later than Monday, July 19. Selected investigators will be invited to submit a full proposal for final consideration by 5:00 PM on Monday, August 30, 2021. For more information about the application process, please contact Dr. John Easterbrook.

Full Proposal. Detailed instructions will be provided to selected investigators invited to submit a full proposal. Full proposals are limited to five pages and must follow the general format of an NIH exploratory / developmental research grant (R21).

Funding

The UNC NORC will award up to two grants of $39,000 in direct costs each. The award must be spent within one year of the project’s start date. The project’s start date must be within three months of notice of award. Funds will be awarded and made available as early as September 2021. Awardees may apply for a no cost extension to carry forward funds past the project end date. P&F funding is not intended to extend projects for which it would be appropriate to submit an NIH grant application. Funds are not intended to support or supplement ongoing research projects. All expenses must conform to the general policies of UNC-CH and the UNC NORC. Institutional Review Board (IRB) and/or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval is required before funds will be released. 75% of funds will be released upon completion of IRB and/or IACUC approvals; the remaining 25% of funds will be released after completion of a six-month progress report. The awardee will be expected to meet with their UNC mentor and the UNC NORC P&F Program Co-Directors at months 3, 6, and 9 (at a minimum).

Eligiblity

Faculty members or senior postdoctoral scholars at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who fall into one of the following three categories are eligible to apply:

  • Applicants must be new investigators without current or past NIH research support (R01, P01 or R24) as a PD/PI. Current or past K01 awards are acceptable. OR
  • Applicants must be established, funded investigators with no previous work in nutritional sciences and/or obesity and who wish to test the applicability of their expertise to a nutritional science and/or obesity-related problem. OR
  • Applicants must be established investigators in nutrition/obesity research who propose testing innovative ideas that represent a clear departure from their ongoing research interests.

Project Criteria

P&F Program projects may be biomedical, epidemiological, or clinical. They may include laboratory or non-laboratory research projects that focus either on human nutrition, animal work that could be translated to human nutrition, or basic research related to nutrition or obesity. Human nutrition or human obesity projects may focus on inpatient or outpatient studies or on epidemiological or community-based research that is social or behavioral in nature. To support their P&F projects, investigators are strongly encouraged to use one or more of the services offered by the four UNC NORC cores. We welcome applications intended to generate pilot data that will address reviewers’ comments from recently scored grants.

  • Basic Science and Fundamentals of Nutrition and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Chronic Diseases in Populations
  • Precision Nutrition: Metabolic Responses, Metabolic Variation, and Requirements for Nutrients
  • Understanding and Changing Diet- and Obesity-Related Behavior

Symposium

The UNC NORC Pilot and Feasibility (P&F) Program held a virtual symposium, “From Pilot Data to Federal Funding: Lessons from Pilot and Feasibility Program Award Winners,” on Thursday, March 11, 2021. The symposium featured keynote speaker and P&F awardee Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen and presentations from P&F award winners Dr. Kyle S. Burger, Dr. Rachel W. Goode, Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan, and Dr. Maya Styner. Speakers discussed their current research, their experiences as a P&F awardee, and their transition from gathering pilot data to securing federal funding. Click here for the symposium program.


P&F Awardees

Since the inception of the program in 1999, the UNC NORC P&F Program has awarded $2.7 million to 68 unique investigators in 29 departments to support new and innovative research in nutrition and obesity. Based on their P&F pilot data, our awardees have received over $51 million in external research support. The majority of this external funding ($47.2 million) has been awarded from the National Institutes of Health. Awardees have published more than 290 articles and 230 abstracts based on pilot data generated as part of their P&F projects.

 

2020-21 Awardees

Xue Bai, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Project: GRAF1 Regulates Brown and Beige Fat Formation and Function

Grace Shearrer, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Project: The Impact of Attentional Bias and Network Brain Connectivity during Food Advertisements Exposure on Eating in the Absence of Hunger

2019-20 Awardees

Flavio Frohlich, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Cell Biology and Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurology
Project: Target Engagement of Brain Circuits with Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation as a Function of Blood Glucose Dynamics

Rachel W. Goode, PhD, MPH, MSW
Assistant Professor of Social Work
Project: Reducing Binge Eating to Prevent Weight Gain in Black Women: A Pilot Study

Zoé A. McElligott, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Project: Investigating Adaptation in a Sweet Promoting Neural Pathway

2018-19 Awardees

Edward Moreira Bahnson, PhD
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Project: Development of a New Animal Model of Dyslipidemia, Atherosclerosis and Diabetes in Obese Rats

Folami Y. Ideraabdullah, PhD
Assistant Professor of Genetics and Nutrition
Project: Establishing the Collaborative Cross mouse reference population as a model for studying genetic determination of vitamin D status

Rachel W. Goode, PhD, MPH, MSW
Assistant Professor of Social Work
Project: Reducing Binge Eating to Prevent Weight Gain in Black Women: A Pilot Study

Damaris Nadia Lorenzo, PhD
Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology
Project: Regulation of Adipose Tissue Metabolism by ankyrin-B

2017-18 Awardees

Edward Moreira Bahnson, PhD
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Project: Development of a New Animal Model of Dyslipidemia, Atherosclerosis, and Diabetes in Obese Rats

Jimena Giudice, PhD
Tenure-Track Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology
Project: Alternate Splicing and Nutrient Uptake: Effects on Striated Muscle Homeostasis During Postnatal Development

Damaris Nadia Lorenzo, PhD
Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology
Project: Regulation of Adipose Tissue Metabolism by ankyrin-B

Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD
Professor of Genetics
Abbie Smith-Ryan, PhD, CSCS, CISSN
Assistant Professor of Exercise and Sports Science
Project: Genetic Determinants on the Physiological Response to Exercise: A Sex Evaluation

2016-17 Awardees

Rosa Tamara Branca, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Project: Assessment of Beige Fat Thermogenic Activity and its Contribution to Whole Body Metabolism by Hyperpolarized 129Xe gas MRI and Metabolic Chamber Studies

Natalia Krupenko, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition
Project: Liver Metabolism in CerS6 KO Mice

Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD
Professor, Department of Genetics
Project: Genetic Determinants on the Physiological Response to Exercise: A Sex Evaluation

Jason Kyle Whitmire, PhD
Assistant Professor, Departments of Genetics and Microbiology & Immunology
Project: Consequences of Adipose-T cell Interactions on Long-Term Immunity

Contact Us

Susan Smith

Dr. Susan M. Smith

Susan M. Smith, PhD
Professor, Department of Nutrition
Deputy Director for Science, Nutrition Research Institute
500 Laureate Way
(704) 250-5065
suesmith@email.unc.edu

  • Co-Director, Pilot & Feasibility Program
  • Responsible for arranging and coordinating the review process for grant submissions, monitoring project progress and serving as a mentor for awardees
  • Contact for specific questions regarding the P&F program

Dr. S. Raz Shaikh

Dr. Raz Shaikh

Raz Shaikh, PhD
Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Research
Department of Nutrition
2203 McGavran-Greenberg Hall
CB# 7461
(919) 843-4348
shaikhsa@email.unc.edu

  • Co-Director, Pilot & Feasibility Program
  • Responsible for arranging and coordinating the review process for grant submissions, monitoring project progress and serving as a mentor for awardees
  • Contact for specific questions regarding the P&F program