Competitive Starter Grants for Innovative Investigations (Mood Disorders)


The Integrative Study Center for Mood Disorders awards 3-4 pilot grants per year (generally about $30,000 each) for innovative studies that bridge interests across Center faculty to generate new and unique collaborations. Starter grants are submitted by Senior Center faculty and should involve projects that involve work across two or more faculty member labs. Projects should involve one or more junior-level people (i.e., residents, fellows, junior faculty). The oversight of the faculty steering committee in awarding these grants has helped assure equity in terms of which groups and their junior faculty members receive such funding.


Application process:

The application process is simple: Submit a brief proposal describing an innovative preliminary study, which in most cases will lead to the development of an NIH application. Applicants should submit the following as a single PDF or Word file to Dr. Miklowitz (

  1. A 1-2 page description of aims/hypotheses, significance, relevant preliminary data, research design, and data analytic plan.
  2. A 1-page budget and brief justification.

Ordinarily, starter grants should not exceed $30,000 in direct costs (including all fringe benefits) unless the proposal is for a larger scale study that combines the efforts of several laboratories. Generally, we will not award both an advanced educational fellowship and a starter grant for the same study.

Evaluation Method:

The starter grant program will lay the foundation for major collaborative interchanges between center investigators. Projects that will be prioritized for funding are those of high scientific importance, and those that demonstrate the potential to bridge interests across mood disorder sub-disciplines. The success of this program will be measured by research productivity (i.e., quantity and quality of publications) and development of new research funding applications. The program will also be evaluated by the dissemination of research findings to the professional and lay community.


Two recently submitted research proposals provide examples of the kind of research that can be done within the collaborative infrastructure of the Center. Drs. Andrew Leuchter, Ian Cook and James McCracken are conducting a study of early changes in gene expression as biomarkers of medication effectiveness. The study incorporates a fellow, Dr. Marissa Caudill. This is an example of the innovative, cross-disciplinary area of pharmacogenomics, in which genes are used to predict medication responses (“personalized medicine”). Dr. Randall Espinoza, in conjunction with Dr. Katherine Narr, has proposed a study of biomarkers of response to electroconvulsive therapy (using 1H Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy) among patients with severe major depression. Thus, both studies involve active collaboration with junior-level investigators.

All awardees should expect to provide statements of progress to Dr. Miklowitz at least once every six months, or as often as required by the funders. The deadline for the next cycle of funding is March 15, 2011.

Application deadline: 15 Mar 2011


Coordinator: David Miklowitz, Ph.D.