Funding & Service

Accelerating Innovations in Biomanufacturing Approaches through Collaboration Between NSF and the DOE BETO funded Agile BioFoundry (NSF-DOE/ABF Collaboration) NSF 22-549

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences and the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems in the Directorate for Engineering announce a new funding opportunity in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (DOE BETO), “Accelerating Innovations in Biomanufacturing Approaches through Collaboration Between NSF and the DOE BETO funded Agile BioFoundry” NSF 22-549.

This funding opportunity provides support for researchers from institutions of higher education and non-profits to take advantage of the unique Design-Build-Test-Learn facilities at the Agile BioFoundry (ABF).  NSF will support the work of the researchers prior to or in parallel to the work that will occur at ABF.  DOE BETO will support the work at ABF through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA).  Through this collaboration, NSF hopes that more basic research projects can be advanced to deliver impact to society leveraging the rapid prototyping and advanced biotechnology resources available at ABF. 

The deadline for proposal submission is April 4, 2022.  Prior to submission, proposers are required to contact ABF and submit a brief outline of their plan for feasibility review. Ideally the plan should be submitted for feasibility review 2 months prior to proposal submission. Due to this year’s time constraint, ABF is willing to accept plans for feasibility review until February 21, 2022 at the latest.

NSF will review proposals according to the standard merit review criteria along with specific criteria that are detailed in the solicitation.  Proposers are encouraged to review ABF capabilities and intellectual property provisions of the CRADA prior to submission. 

For full details on submission instructions, solicitation requirements, and contact information, see NSF 22-549.

NEW COLLABORATION BETWEEN NSF MCB AND GERMAN RESERCH FOUNDATION

The NSF Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) has announced a new opportunity for investigators to obtain support for international collaboration, specifically between the U.S. and German research communities. The Dear Colleague Letter, released under an MOU with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and  titled “NSF-DFG Lead Agency Opportunity in Molecular and Cellular Biology” (NSF 22-015), invites U.S. and German collaborators to submit joint proposals in the areas covered by NSF/MCB and DFG’s review board 201 “Basic Research in Biology and Medicine.”

The proposals should focus on basic research at a molecular, subcellular, or cellular level, including theoretical approaches. Please note the following exclusions:

  • Proposals encompassing tissues, organs or whole animals will not be considered.
  • Research in the areas of plant sciences, microbiology, immunology, and neurosciences is also excluded.

Proposals must provide a clear rationale for the need for US-German collaboration, including the unique expertise and synergy that the collaborating researchers will bring to the project.

Please note that proposals can be submitted from January 3rd, 2022 on a continuous basis. Please note that there is no deadline for submission to either agency.

For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see DCL NSF 22-015.

Designer Cells Welcomes Proposals for the Second Year

In 2020, NSF’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences together with the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transports Systems (CBET) in the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) and the Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES) in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) launched a new solicitation, Designing Synthetic Cells Beyond the Bounds of Evolution (Designer Cells) NSF 21-531.  With this solicitation, NSF hoped to continue to support advances in building synthetic cells and leverage the success of programs like Understanding the Rules of Life: Building a Synthetic Cell. Projects submitted to the Designer Cells solicitation used synthetic biology to address at least one of the following research areas:

  1. identifying the minimal requirements for the processes of life;
  2. addressing fundamental questions in the evolution of life or to explore biological diversity beyond that which currently exists in nature;
  3. leveraging synthetic systems for innovative biotechnology applications. 

The program is now accepting proposals for its second cohort. The due date for proposals for the second year is February 1, 2022.

In its first cohort, the program made 12 awards.  These first awards explored a number of exciting themes including building synthetic organelles, exploring non-natural or synthetic approaches to information storage and decoding, and creating cells with new tunable properties.  One exciting thematic area represented in a number of 2021 Designer Cells awards was synthetic modifications that change information storage and decoding in cells.  A full list of the awards made in the first year of Designer Cells can be found here.  

In this second year of the solicitation, Program Director Anthony Garza says that he “hopes to see proposals that continue to push to boundaries of what cells can do, either by adding in new functionality, or minimizing cell components, but still getting functional synthetic cells.” Program Director Steve Peretti said he “would like to see the community exploit synthetic cell technology in new application areas.” 

Opportunities to Learn More

Garza and Peretti are holding a Virtual Office Hour on Designer Cells and other new opportunities on November 17, 2021 at 2 PM EST.  You can register here

Dark Dimensions of the RNA Regulome (D2R2) – An Ideas Lab Activity (22-510)

NSF announces their support of a new Ideas Lab (NSF-22-510) to bring together interdisciplinary groups of investigators to explore new solutions to elucidate the function of parts of the genome.

Ideas Labs are intensive, facilitated workshops to find innovative solutions to grand challenge problems. The grand challenge problem here: can we make sense of biological dark matter? Specifically, what is the evolutionary and functional significance of non-coding RNA transcripts?

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Large parts of eukaryotic genomes, so-called “dark” regions, are transcribed into RNAs that do not encode proteins. We know very little about this part of the genome even though there are signatures of evolutionary conservation, unusual structural features, and/or non-random expression patterns that are suggestive of functional roles.

This Ideas Lab will bring together a diverse set of researchers from multiple disciplines during a 5-day in-person retreat to stimulate generation and execution of innovative research proposals that will advance our understanding of the origin, diversity, and functions of non-coding RNAs. A wealth of new biology awaits discovery, aided by innovations from other disciplines, as participants make progress on deciphering how the dark dimensions of the RNA regulome help shape and regulate the form and function of life on Earth.

The D2R2 Ideas lab will take place from June 13-17, 2022. It will be an in-person event at a location to be determined in Northern Virginia.

A two-page pre-proposal is required for all participants, due by January 31, 2022. Full details are available in the solicitation.

Learn more about this new BIO opportunity: Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) Solicitation NSF 22-500

BRC-BIO is a new solicitation intended to enhance research capacity and broaden participation of new faculty of biology at minority-serving institutions (MSIs), predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs), and other universities and colleges that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive and resourced institutions.

Some key information from the solicitation:

  • Primary investigators must hold at least a 50% tenure-track (or tenure-track equivalent) position as an assistant professor (or equivalent rank), who are untenured, have both research and teaching components to their appointment, and are within the first three years of their appointment.
  • Proposed projects should enable the establishment of research programs for new faculty to position them to apply for future grants to sustain their research and should also enrich undergraduate research experiences and thereby grow the STEM workforce.
  • Projects can include biology-focused research collaborations among those in academia, or partnerships with industry or other non-academic partners that advance the PI’s research program.
  • Beyond what is typically requested in BIO core proposals, budgets may include up to $50,000 equipment and funds to buy out teaching time in each year of the project.

Upcoming Opportunities to Learn More

Details of this funding opportunity will be featured, along with the new Research and Mentoring for Postbaccalaureates in Biological Sciences (RaMP) NSF 22-506 opportunity, in the upcoming IOS VOH on November 18, at 1pm ET. Register at https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_QJdSn2DFQUOpIFOu_oW-Cg.

You can also learn more about RaMP on BIO Buzz, the blog of NSF’s Office of the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences.

We also encourage institutions targeted in this solicitation to inquire about scheduling a virtual outreach event for faculty and administrators at your institution or in your region to learn details about this new opportunity. All questions should be directed to BRC-BIO@nsf.gov.  

Note: The initial submission window for BRC-BIO is January 3 through January 31, 2022. Please see the solicitation for subsequent submission windows.

NSF-Simons Collaboration on a National Institute for Theory and Mathematics in Biology (NITMB)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a new solicitation (NSF 21-607) to support a national institute to enable innovative research at the intersection of mathematical and biological sciences. The goal of the institute will be to facilitate new developments of biology-inspired mathematical theories, methodologies, and innovative modeling approaches to advance the understanding of challenging biological problems. The institute should promote interdisciplinary research, education, and workforce training.

The preliminary proposal is due on December 1, 2021. The full proposal is due on July 18, 2022.

The institute will serve as a national resource that aims to advance research in the mathematical and biological sciences through programs supporting discovery and knowledge dissemination in mathematical biology and enhancing connections to related fields.

The institute should primarily focus on advances in theory and mathematics that are motivated by and applicable to the analysis of complex biological systems. Other expectations include:

  • Conduct interdisciplinary education and training through research involvement of doctoral degree recipients and graduate students from across this multi-disciplinary spectrum
  • Conduct convening activities, including short-term and/or long-term visitor programs, workshops, and/or outreach activities.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are expected to be core values of the institute and should be reflected in its research, education, outreach programs, and its leadership

The institute will be co-sponsored at an anticipated level of $50,000,000 for five years by the National Science Foundation Directorates for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and for Biological Sciences, together with the Simons Foundation Division of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

Information on Proposal Format:
Proposals must be written with a five-year plan for research, training, outreach, and other Broader Impact activities. The plan and budget must reflect a ramp-up of the institute’s activities during Years 1 and 2, with a full complement of activities implemented no later than the beginning of Year 3.

For more information:
View the full solicitation (NSF 21-607) here.

French Agence Nationale de la Recherche/Physics/MCB Lead Agency Agreement at the Physics – Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Interface

The NSF Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in the Directorate for Biological Sciences and Division of Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (NSF/MCB and NSF/PHY) recently released Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) “ANR – NSF/Physics/MCB Lead Agency Opportunity at the Physics – Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Interface” (NSF 21-120). This DCL announces the continued collaboration between the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and NSF to support projects that use multidisciplinary approaches to examine mechanisms underlying essential life processes at the molecular, subcellular, and cellular scales. Proposals that use physics based experimental and theoretical approaches are encouraged. 

Under the lead agency agreement, researchers can submit a single collaborative proposal that will go through a streamlined review process either at NSF or at ANR. In FY 2022 (October 2021-September 2022), NSF will serve as the lead agency for all proposals. Proposals should be submitted to: NSF 21-593 Division of Physics: Investigator Initiated Research Projects. The deadline for proposals is December 14, 2021. While proposals are submitted to NSF/PHY, they will be jointly reviewed by PHY and MCB.

Simultaneously, the French institution must submit a proposal with the identical Project Description, with any required additional information to ANR, via the ANR submission system (https://anr.fr/fr/appels/). The deadline for this is December 15, 2021.

For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see the DCL: NSF 21-120.

Welcome to FY22 – Recap of MCB funding opportunities and priorities

Greetings from all of us in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation! 
The new federal fiscal year FY 2022 is underway and we are looking forward to all the exciting science you will propose and accomplish in the coming year.

Stay Informed on News and Updates by Following the MCB Blog
Watch this space, where we will announce funding opportunities and tell you about virtual and in-person venues to talk with MCB program officers. The blog is also where we share information about the MCB portfolio and announce new funding opportunities. Look here, too, if you are interested in rotating or permanent employment opportunities in MCB. 

Keep up to Date on Upcoming and Past Virtual Office Hours
We use the linked Virtual Office Hours site to share an archive of advice from program directors to applicants. The recorded sessions and files walk through a variety of topics from how to prepare a budget, tips for developing broader impacts activities, and how to submit a proposal to suggestions for writing effective, constructive reviews.

Check out a Quick recap of MCB Highlights to Kick Off the New Funding Year

Engage with MCB Virtually
For the time being, MCB will continue to have virtual review panels and program directors will visit scientific meetings virtually, too. If your conference, department, or institution would like a virtual visit, don’t hesitate to contact a program director to see what can be arranged. All of us at MCB look forward to serving you in the year ahead.

NSF EFRI Solicitation: Engineered Living Systems Topic (Focus on Sustainable Engineering and Safe Built Environment)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a new solicitation (NSF 21-615) topic as part of its FY22 Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) Program, entitled, Engineering Living Systems (ELiS).

The Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (EFMA) Office will host an informational webinar on October 15, 2021, at 2 PM EDT, to discuss the EFRI program and answer questions about the FY 2022/23 solicitation. To register for this webinar, go to this link.

The EFRI-ELiS topic will support transdisciplinary research to advance the design, modeling, fabrication, and manufacturing of engineered living systems to address societal needs as well as the associated ethical, legal, and social implications of using living systems as building blocks and components for next-generation sustainable engineering. More specifically, ELiS will seed and catalyze transformative and convergence research with the goal of creating living systems for sustainable engineering with a focus on three national/societal needs: Thread 1) a sustainable built environment, Thread 2) monitoring and surveillance for a safe built environment, and Thread 3) biomining for sustainable metal extraction and resource recovery. ELiS will also contribute to the development of the basic science and engineering knowledge needed to advance the respective missions of our Federal Partner Agencies including 1) NASA’s goals for sustainable space exploration and 2) the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)’s goals for the development and deployment of enabling capabilities to understand the built environment, threats, and vulnerabilities.

Each proposal submitted in response to this topic of the EFRI solicitation is required to address one of the three research threads and each of the foundational research components listed below:

  • Foundational Research: 1) design and/or modeling, 2) fabrication and/or manufacturing, and 3) ethical, legal, and social implications.
  • Research Thread 1: Sustainable Built Environment
  • Research Thread 2: Monitoring and Surveillance for a Safe Built Environment
  • Research Thread 3: Biomining for Sustainable Metal Extraction and Resource Recovery

The full solicitation (21-615) can be found here. Letter of Intent will be due on November 10, 2021. Preliminary Proposal will be due on December 16, 2021. Full Proposal will be due on March 10, 2022.

NSF 21-100 DCL RENEWAL: BIO AND UKRI/BBSRC COLLABORATION AND BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT

The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) recently released Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) “UKRI/BBSRC-NSF/BIO Lead Agency Opportunity in Biological Informatics, Microbes and the Host Immune System, Quantum Biology and Synthetic Cell” (NSF 21-100). This DCL announces the continued collaboration between the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and BIO on topics of strategic importance to both agencies. The topics for the coming fiscal year FY 2022 remain the same as those announced for FY 2021.

Under the lead agency agreement, researchers can submit a single collaborative proposal that will go through a streamlined review process either at NSF or at UKRI, on behalf of both NSF/BIO and UKRI/BBSRC.

Potential proposers should submit a letter of Intention to Submit (ITS) by September 22, 2021. If both agencies agree that the research topic fits the topical areas identified for FY 2022, researchers will be invited to submit a full proposal to the appropriate NSF or UKRI program.

Projects must address the priorities of both UKRI/BBSRC and participating NSF/BIO Divisions. Proposers must provide a clear rationale as to the need of the US-UK collaboration, including the unique expertise and collaboration that the team will bring to the project.

For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see DCL NSF 21-100.

BLOG ANNOUCEMENT: The MCB Blog members will be going on a hiatus until mid-August. We hope to see you again in the fall!