In a continued effort to support university faculty and encourage groundbreaking research, the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Dean’s Pilot Grant Program and the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute have distributed nearly two dozen grants for the fall funding cycle.

Principal investigators and their collaborators include many multidisciplinary teams and represent a wide variety of institutions, schools and departments, including the Keck School and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“Supporting faculty members through these grant programs is a key part of our ongoing mission to foster groundbreaking research at the Keck School,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, dean of the Keck School and director of the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute. “I look forward to seeing the development and innovation that result from supporting these exceptional researchers.”

These pilot grants will support a range of projects, from pre-clinical development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics to community-based research that ultimately will improve patient and community health.

“These two programs provide a crucial element of research that is hard to find – the very first funds to begin to test a new idea,” said Tom Buchanan, MD, director of SC CTSI and vice dean for research at the Keck School. “We have lots of evidence that this sort of funding leads to bigger grants and important research. I am very pleased that the dean and the SC CTSI are able to provide this crucial funding to our research community.”

The Keck School of Medicine of USC Dean’s Pilot Grant Program received 44 applications, funding 11 projects. The awardees are: Ching-Ling Lien, PhD, assistant professor of surgery; Amir Kashani, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology; Peter Conti, MD, PhD, professor of radiology; Alex Wong, MD, associate professor of clinical surgery; Nuria Pastor-Soler, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine, and Alicia McDonough, PhD, professor of cell and neurobiology; Lucio Comai, PhD, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology; Kinji Asahina, PhD, associate professor of research pathology; Douglas Feldman, PhD, assistant professor of research pathology; Rima Habre, ScD, assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine; Xuejuan Jiang, PhD, assistant professor of research ophthalmology; and Frank Attenello, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical neurological surgery.

The SC CTSI Pilot Program received 70 applications, funding 10 programs and co-funding two more with the Alzheimer Disease Research Center. The awardees are: Dean Coffey, PsyD, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics; Christina Dieli-Conwright, PhD, assistant professor of research in the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy; Jennifer Dien Bard, PhD, assistant professor of clinical pathology; Vinay Duddalwar, MD, associate professor of clinical radiology; Megan Herting, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine; Kevin King, MD, assistant professor of clinical radiology; Karen Lincoln, PhD, associate professor of social work at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work; Harshawn Malhi, MD, assistant professor of clinical radiology; Matthew Oberley, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical pathology; Jennifer Unger, PhD, professor of preventive medicine; Hussein Yassine, MD, assistant professor of medicine; and William Vega, PhD, Provost Professor of Social Work at the USC Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

The SC CTSI Pilot Program spring cycle is open for grant applications through Feb. 15, said Sarah Hamm-Alvarez, PhD, associate dean for basic and translational research. Applications can be submitted at

“We’re thrilled to be able to have access to the funds to administer both programs,” Hamm-Alvarez said. “For each of the programs, we’re able to fund new investigators — in many cases, for their first peer-reviewed awards — to seed their research careers. We also are able to fund the development of new directions for experienced investigators that promote further innovation and discovery.”