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Synergistic Pilot AIDS Research Center (SPARC) Award

The University of Washington Behavioral Research Center for HIV (UW BIRCH) invites pilot study applications focused on integrated systems of mental health and HIV primary care that can be implemented at scale. Through this integration, programs can optimize HIV prevention, medication adherence, and engagement in treatment – critical for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) vision of “Getting to Zero” and the US “Ending the HIV Epidemic” priorities.




RFA released: May 8th, 2023

Methods Consultation: June 16th, 2023 (earlier is recommended)

Applications Due: Monday, June 26, 2023, at 5:00 pm PT

Notification: June 30th, 2023 (approximately) 

Approximate Period of Performance: July 15th,2023 for 20 months with the possibility of extending to 24 months pending renewal of the BIRCH center



The purpose of the BIRCH SPARC awards is to support researchers to conduct work that ‘sparks’ research in mental health and associated conditions in the context of HIV. Successful awardees will be included in the University of Washington Behavioral Research Center for HIV (UW BIRCH) Synergistic Pilot AIDS Research Center (SPARC) Scholars program which includes monthly fellowships meetings, access to mentors across the UW BIRCH network, and opportunities to collaborate with other SPARC scholars.


Funding Available

  • Direct costs: $30,000 in a one-year award with option to spend the funds during one or two years, pending funds availability. Previously funded projects will not be considered (but novel additions to funded projects are allowable).
  • Funding cannot be applied to alterations or renovations of any facilities or IRB/ERC fees.
  • If the proposal requires a subcontract, subcontractor F&A costs must be budgeted as a direct cost.
    • For international institutions, the allowable F&A rate to be budgeted as a direct cost is 8%.
    • For domestic organizations without an established F&A rate, the default F&A rate is 10%.

Applicant Eligibility

Applicants must: 

  1. Have an MD, PhD, or equivalent terminal degree (including an MBChB) 
  2. Have not yet served as Principal Investigator on an NIH R01 (or equivalent) grant 
  3. Have an appropriate appointment with the University of Washington (UW) or UW-affiliate institution* (see 4a), as follows: 
    • Junior faculty (including acting positions), OR  
    • Scientist completing a fellowship, OR  
    • Senior post-doctoral fellow initiating a new area of HIV- or mental health-related research that will form a basis for an independent program, OR  
    • Faculty-equivalent investigator at a community-based organization whose primary mission is research, OR 
  4. [If from non-US institutions] 
    • Have an appointment at an institution that has an existing collaboration with UW, such as an NIH, CDC, HRSA, or equivalent grant funded project (e.g. P-HERT, S-MhINT, I-TECH), AND 
    • Have a local mentor and a mentor with a faculty appointment with the UW. Both mentors should have an established relationship of working together. 

*US-based UW BIRCH affiliates include the University of Washington, Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s, Access to Advanced Health Institute (formerly Infectious Disease Research Institute), and University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. 

UW BIRCH values diversity and encourages individuals from underrepresented groups to apply. Contact if you have questions about eligibility. 


Types of Projects

Research topics could include any aspect of mental health in the context of HIV or HIV in the context of mental health, but may not include clinical trials, as defined by the NIH. Please contact us with any questions throughout the process at  


Pre-Submission Requirements 

Required consultation with the Methods Core. Please fill out a consultation request form to schedule a consultation on your study design and scientific approach. In advance of the meeting, please be prepared with at least a draft specific aims page describing your primary research aims and scientific approach. The deadline to complete this consultation is June 16, 2023 (earlier is recommended).    


Submission Instructions

After fulfilling all pre-submission requirements, submit all application materials as a single PDF file by June 26th, 2023 at 5:00 PST to  

Application sections can be expanded or shortened, however proposal narratives (the application fromBIRCH_SPARC_RFA_2023_FINAL1 sections 3 – 9, not including the title page, abstract, budget, letters of support and biosketches) should be no longer than six pages. 38T


Pre-Award Requirements

Per NIH policy, UW BIRCH may not release pilot research funds until awardees complete the NIH administrative clearance process. Clearance will require final IRB approval from all participating institutions and documentation of human subjects training from all investigators. This process may take several weeks, so please consider it in your timeline. More information on NIH requirements for international studies can be found at: 

Projects that are unable to complete the NIH clearance process within one year of award date are at risk of losing funding. 


Post-Award Requirements

  1. BIRCH support must be acknowledged in all publications derived from BIRCH funding.
  2. A progress report is required annually and upon completion of the project. This should include information about publications, collaborations, and future grants related to your BIRCH funded project.
  3. Awardee becomes a member of the SPARC fellowship. Requires participation in monthly fellowship meetings.
  4. Final report of spent funds including receipts and completion of regular annual updates.


Contact Us

Please contact us with any questions regarding this pilot research grant or the application process: Sherly Herrera- BIRCH Program Manager