Pitt’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute Awards $900k to Support Urgent COVID-19 Research

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Pittsburgh has awarded $900,000 to 17 research projects to address different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The COVID-19 Pilot Grant Program was launched at the end of March in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic with the intent to support new research initiatives that will make immediate progress toward reducing the harm to individuals, groups and society from COVID-19.


Steven Reis release“We need to look at all options to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the response to the call for proposals was overwhelming,” said Steven Reis, M.D., director of the CTSI, associate vice chancellor for clinical research, health sciences, and distinguished service professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. “As encouraged as we were with the number, we were even more impressed with the thinking that went into the proposals from so many different parts of the university, and we are optimistic that the impact of research will provide insight and results. We are proud to be part of this thriving research community that has shown how Pittsburgh really steps up when called upon.”


Funding for the projects was provided by the CTSI, the Pitt Office of the Provost, the Pitt Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research and the DSF Charitable Foundation, which contributed $350,000. Support for the health sciences is one of the core funding priorities of the foundation.


“These grants represent the best of research — creative minds working in collaboration with partners to innovate for the benefit to society,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research. “It’s an honor to help support such vital investigation.”


DSF Charitable Foundation Executive Director Nick Beldecos added: “This obviously time-sensitive research is critically important. We are confident that the broad and deep expertise Pitt is bringing to bear in the fight against COVID-19 will produce significant and timely advances.”


More than 150 proposals were originally submitted from 590 investigators covering 14 schools and more than 90 departments, divisions, centers and institutes. Each group submitting a proposal needed at least one team member from Pitt. Forty-six different universities were represented across the teams. The proposals were put through an accelerated and extensive peer-review process before the awardees were selected.


Recipients of $100,000 Award: 


  • SARS-CoV-2 Clinical and Community Serosurveillance, Principal Investigators (co-PIs) Paul Duprex, Ph.D., Anita McElroy, M.D., Ph.D., and Alan Wells, M.D., D.M.Sc.


Recipients of $50,000 Awards: 


  • Biomarkers for Predicting Viral Pneumonia Severity, PI John Alcorn, Ph.D.
  • Cellular Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 Infection, co-PIs Sally Wenzel, M.D., and Xiuxia Zhou, Ph.D.
  • Coronavirus and Lung Microbiome Interactions, PI Georgios Kitsios, M.D., Ph.D.
  • COVID-19 Neurologic Manifestations, PI Sherry Hsiang-Yi Chou, M.D., M.M.Sc.
  • COVID-Insight Triage and Monitoring Tool, PI David Salcido, Ph.D., M.P.H.
  • Determinants of COVID-19 Clinical Outcomes, co-PIs Christian Fernandez, Ph.D., Ernesto Marques, M.D., Ph.D., Donald Burke, M.D., and Philip Empey, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
  • Generation of Transgenic hACE2 Knock-in Mice, co-PIs Andrea Gambotto, M.D., Lou Falo, M.D., Ph.D., Mark Shlomchik, M.D., Ph.D., and William Klimstra, Ph.D.
  • Impact of Maternal COVID-19 Infection on Newborns, co-PIs Anne-Marie Rick, M.D., M.P.H., and Judith Martin, M.D.
  • Lung-Targeting SARS-CoV-2 Therapeutic, PI Raymond Frizzell, Ph.D.
  • Modeling Strategies for the COVID-19 Pandemic, PI Mark Roberts, M.D.
  • Pediatric Epidemiology SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Response, co-PIs Sarah Wheeler, Ph.D., Glenn Rapsinski, M.D., Ph.D., and Megan Culler Freeman, M.D., Ph.D.
  • SARS-CoV-2 Cellular Imaging System, PI Zandrea Ambrose, Ph.D.
  • SARS-CoV-2 Immune Escape Variants in Treatment, PI Jana Jacobs, Ph.D.
  • SARS-CoV-2 Prevention Spray, co-PIs Lisa Rohan, Ph.D., and Sravan Kumar Patel, Ph.D.
  • Therapeutic Nanobodies for SARS-CoV-2, PI Yi Shi, Ph.D.
  • Therapy for COVID-19 Induced ARDS, PI Luis Ortiz, M.D.
Visit the COVID-19 Pilot Grant page for additional information.