In an effort to promote excellent translational research in breast cancer, the Developmental Research Program (DRP) is a major focus of this Breast SPORE. The support of pilot projects allows eariy, high-risk research to move solid basic science findings toward clinical application as well as migrating provocative clinical observations back to the laboratory to understand their mechanistic basis. Main criteria for selection and funding of developmental (pilot) projects include scientific merit, relevance to mammary biology and/or breast cancer, collaboration, and potential for extramural peer-reviewed funding. There is also an emphasis on utilization of emerging technologies and on young investigators. During the current cycle and with generous institutional funds to supplement the SPORE budget, we have allocated $200,000 per year to support 21 pilot projects. This investment has resulted in at least seven R01, ROI equivalent, or K type grants for a combined budget well in excess of the investment made in the Program. In addition, data generated by three DRPs have been highly supportive of at least three multi-investigator, P50-type, or consortia type grants The DRP has also produced at least 17 peer-reviewed published manuscripts. Four investigators funded by the DRP during the last cycle are now Project co-PIs and or Core Directors in this competing renewal application. The DRP is co-led by Carios L. Arteaga, Jennifer Pietenpol, and Scott Hiebert, all with leadership roles at VICC. Applications for pilot projects are open to all Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical Center faculty members in order to maximize the number and breadth of research applications. Fifty-four applications were submitted and reviewed during the last 5 years of which 21 were funded, representing a funding rate of 39%. Special efforts are made to encourage gender and ethnic diversity among the applicants. Applications are reviewed through a multi-step process. After receiving the applications in July, Drs. Arteaga, Pietenpol and Hiebert jointly select 2- 3 expert reviewers per project. At least one of these is a reviewer from outside Vanderbilt.
We believe that by any metric, this has been a strong and productive Program. For a number of applicants, support from the Breast SPORE represents their first, independent research grant. Therefore, the written comments that the applicants receive after review of their projects are invaluable for subsequent submissions of larger research grant proposals to the NIH, ACS, Komen Foundation, DOD, etc. or for resubmission of the pilot application.
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