COBRE Project - Review of Research Projects, Research Performance, and Mentoring

During the course of each project there will be several levels of oversight and evaluation. These include:

  1. Pre-award meeting with the Steering Committee: Junior Investigators and their mentors, and the multi-PI research teams selected for funding, will meet individually with the COBRE leaders and the Core directors to present and discuss experimental plans, usage of the Cores and start planning grant submission activities. PJIs will also receive advice on the requirements for their successful development as faculty.
  2. Work-in-progress meetings: All Pilot Project investigators will be required to present at least two or three times per year at the weekly Work-in-Progress meetings. These meetings provide an exceptional mechanism for COBRE investigators to present and discuss ongoing work, present publications and grant plans prior to their submission, and initiate additional collaborations.
  3. COBRE PI support: The COBRE PI will be available to meet with PJIs or research teams on a more informal and frequent basis to discuss ongoing findings, solutions to potential research pitfalls, and to discuss plans for upcoming experiments. In Phase I and Phase II, these interactions provided a valuable interaction to assist PJIs with issues that they encountered and as well to discuss novel findings.
  4. Annual Progress Report: Each March (at the 9th month of the fiscal year), each PJI will submit a draft of their progress report (2 pages, NIH style). The COBRE PI and PJI’s advisors will use this report to assess the potential for renewal of Pilot Project funding for a second year, and to prepare the summary of accomplishments towards the annual NIH Progress Report.
  5. External Advisory Board (EAB) Annual Visit: During the annual visit of the EAB, the PJI and research teams will present their work and accomplishments for evaluation by EAB members who will provide written feedback for each project.

All feedback and data obtained through these meetings and reports will aid the directors in assessing the overall performance of each PJI on their research project, and will be used to evaluate the overall success of the Pilot Project program, which will then be reported in the COBRE Annual Progress Report (APR) that is submitted to the NIH in June-July annually.

Eligibility:  Eligibility for the Pilot Project Program is determined by the following criteria:

  1. The PJIs and the leaders of team-science applying for a COBRE Pilot Project grant must be full-time faculty members in a basic science and/or clinical department at LSU, Tulane University School of Medicine, Ochsner Clinic Foundation or other biomedical research organization in the region.
  2. For applicants to be considered as PJIs, they must not have been a PI in an R01 grant. Foundation or internal funding does not change applicants’ status as junior investigators.
  3. For team-science projects, the investigators may be funded from other federal or local sources, but the proposal presented cannot overlap with their currently funded clinical or laboratory research work.

Mentoring: In Phase Ill, a focus will be to maintain the exceptional mentoring program and environment, established in Phases I and II, by continuing to operate our tailored mentoring system. Therefore, each junior investigator who receives funding for a Pilot Project will have a mentoring team comprised of a primary mentor, who helped put the proposal together and will continue to provide scientific guidance, and a secondary mentor, who can be a clinician, epidemiologist or public health scientist (including biostatisticians) who will provide the translational aspects of the work. A detailed Mentoring Plan will be presented to the Steering Committee during the initial pre-award meeting to ensure that it meets predefined requirements. In general, Junior Investigators are expected to:

  • meet with the mentor at least once a month to discuss the status of ongoing and planned research project, address research pitfalls, and plan faculty/career development activities. These meetings and their outcomes, including corrective actions, will be documented by the mentor.
  • attend and present three-four times per year the Work-in-Progress seminars. Attend at least one scientific training session held by each of the three Core Facilities.
  • send the mentor, COBRE PI and COBRE coordinator a copy of the drafts of all publications (abstracts and manuscripts) and grant applications for review.
  • meet as a group with the COBRE Steering Committee to discuss programmatic issues.
  • transition from conducting research on a pilot project to submitting an NIH R01 (or equivalent) application.

Termination: COBRE Pilot Project awards may not be transferred to other investigators. Awardees must notify the COBRE Director within 30 days of any change in their academic status at their institution. In the  event that an awardee receives extramural support, the COBRE Directors must be notified immediately. The award will terminate on the date of change of eligibility status, and any unexpended funds from the Pilot Project award will be returned to the COBRE for reinvestment into another Pilot Project.

Institutional Commitment: The LSU School of Medicine provided significant financial support during the Phase I and II of this COBRE, in particular contributing almost the entire funding for the equipment needed to develop the scientific cores and also provided approximately 50% (with the Cancer Center providing the rest)  of the funding for the recruitment of the five senior faculty who have strengthened the COBRE. LSU continues to be committed to the support of the Phase III, as shown in the letters of support from Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of the LSU School of Medicine, which specify the financial resources and institutional commitment that will be provided to support the COBRE's Pilot Projects Program. In addition, the administration acknowledged issues with retention of funded faculty, which significantly affected the COBRE during Phase I and the reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina. As such, a program has been dedicated to the retention of funded investigators (see S. Nelson – Letter of Support).

Collaboration with Other Funding Opportunities:   As mentioned in the Program Overview, the leadership of this COBRE has explored and developed collaboration with other COBREs in Louisiana to enhance funding opportunities for the investigators. An important collaboration on the Pilot Projects Program was shown with  the “Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center” (LA CaTS Center directed by Dr. William Cefalu. As described previously in this section, joint funding between this COBRE and LA CaTS has enhanced the work  of Dr. Jennifer Cameron. Dr. Cefalu has also agreed to advertise the RFA for Pilot Projects and to include the unique Scientific Cores of this COBRE on the LA CaTS website. In addition, Dr. Ochoa and Cefalu have agreed to l search for team-science opportunities that can be funded between both centers. A specific area of interest is the role of obesity as a pro-inflammatory condition (Pennington Research Center is dedicated to metabolic diseases) that promotes the development of cancer and other inflammation related diseases (see Cefalu letter of support). Furthermore, Dr Cefalu will serve as a member of the Steering Committee of this COBRE, while Dr. Ochoa currently is the director of the Pilot Project Program in LA CaTS.