Pilot Project Research Program

About the Program

The Pilot Project Research Program is a signature program and significant success of the Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC). In this program, CEHC awards seed grants through a rigorously peer-reviewed, competitive process to carefully selected physicians and scientists, both within CEHC and across the Icahn School of Medicine. The goal is to encourage these investigators – many of whom are at the beginning stages of their careers – to initiate new research that catalyzes discovery of the environmental causes of disease in children. This research will set the stage for better treatments and more effective prevention.

The Pilot Project Research Program represents a venture capital approach to catalyzing biomedical research. It enables CEHC to move quickly to fill a critical gap in current research funding. Both the National Institutes of Health and other sources of research funding require that investigators generate preliminary results and present proof-of-concept data before they apply for major research support. The Pilot Project Research Program enables our researchers to move swiftly to develop data that meet this requirement. Thus, they are positioned to develop strong and highly competitive funding proposals.

Over the past three years, the Children’s Environmental Health Center has awarded 21 seed grants, ranging in size from $4,000 to $25,000 and totaling $310,000. Studies supported by these grants have explored the environmental causes of asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders – autism, attention deficit disorder, and learning disabilities – obesity, diabetes and childhood cancer. In each funding cycle, we have funded 1-2 pilot projects that relate to children’s environmental health problems in Mount Sinai’s home community, East Harlem.

What We’ve Achieved

Preliminary data from investigations supported by the Pilot Project Research Program have enabled our scientists to submit a series of very strong applications to federal funders.

As of July 2010, six projects that used data from our Pilot Project Research Program have received funding from the National Institutes of Health and other major foundations, amounting to over $6 million in funding over the next five years. Five additional projects have grant applications pending. (See graph below.)


Investing in Knowledge: NIH Grants by CEHC Pilot Project


The Pilot Research Project Program has also generated eight scientific papers that are either published or pending publication in peer-reviewed medical literature. These publications include:

Engel SM, Zhu C, Berkowitz GS, Calafat AM, Silva MJ, Miodovnik A, Wolff MS. Prenatal phthalate exposure and performance on the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale in a multiethnic birth cohort. Neurotoxicology, 2009; 30: 522-28.

Engel SM, Miodovnik A, Canfield RL, Zhu C, Silva MJ, Calafat AM, Wolff MS. Prenatal phthalate exposure is associated with childhood behavior and executive functioning. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010; in press.

La Merrill M, Ruiz-Ramos R, Torres-Sanchez L, López-Carrillo L, Cebrián Garcia M, Chen J. The association of maternal Vitamin B6 intake, MTHFR 677 genotypes, and global DNA methylation in pregnant Mexican women. Manuscript in preparation.

Teitelbaum SL, Britton JA, Calafat AM, Ye X, Silva MJ, Reidy JA, Galvez MP, Brenner BL, Wolff MS. Temporal variability in urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites, phytoestrogens and phenols among minority children in the United States. Environ Res. 2008 Feb;106(2): 257-69.

Galvez MP, Choi E, Hong L, Liao L, Godbold J, Brenner B. Childhood Obesity and Neighborhood Food Store Availability in an Inner City Community. Academic Pediatrics 2009 Sept-Oct; 9(5): 339-343.

Landrigan, PJ, Rauh, VA and Galvez, MP. Environmental Justice and the Health of Children. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, in press.

Galvez, MP, Pearl M. and Yen I. Childhood Obesity and the Built Environment. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, in press.

Sheffield, PE, Galvez MP. US Childhood Obesity and Climate Change: Moving Toward Shared Environmental Health Solutions. Environmental Justice 2009;2 (4), in press.

More About the Projects

CEHC’s Pilot Research Program has funded projects that explore topics like neurodevelopmental disorders, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders. Read more about the individual projects.