Funding & Service

New Solicitation: Designing Synthetic Cells Beyond the Bounds of Evolution (Designer Cells)

A new solicitation (NSF 21-531) invites proposals that use cell design technology to address questions regarding the fundamental processes of life, the evolution of life, and biological diversity beyond extant processes and organisms. Proposals which use this technology for novel biotechnology applications are also welcomed. The goal of this solicitation is to support innovative research that develops and uses synthetic cell-like systems or cells to address at least one of the following themes:

  1. identify the minimal requirements or minimal functional units for the processes of life;
  2. address fundamental questions in the evolution of life on Earth or to explore biological diversity beyond that which currently exists in nature;
  3. provide new functionalities for innovative biotechnology applications.

Proposals submitted to this solicitation should address social, ethical, and safety issues associated with designing and building synthetically modified cells as an integrated component of the project.

Full proposals are due February 16, 2021 and on February 1 annually thereafter via Research.gov. Full solicitation requirements, program priorities, and contact information for program officers can be found in the solicitation NSF 21-531.

Webinar Announced for Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-1 Program

On Wednesday, November 4, 2020 and Thursday, November 5, 2020, NSF will host outreach webinars with information about the Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (Mid-scale RI)-1 funding opportunity (NSF 21-505). 

The Mid-scale RI Big Idea is intended to provides an agile, Foundation-wide process to fund experimental research capabilities in the mid-scale range ($6 million to $100 million), between the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) and Major Facilities thresholds.  Recently, the solicitation (NSF 21-505) for the Mid-scale RI-1 program (for infrastructure with total project cost of $6 million up until, but not including, $20 million) was published with a deadline of January 7, 2021 for preliminary proposals.

Each session will begin at 1:00 p.m. (EST) and have two parts: a general Mid-scale RI-1 information session (1:00 p.m. -1:40 p.m. EST) with Q&A followed by Directorate-specific breakouts (1:45 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EST) where more technical questions will be addressed. The information presented on Day 1 will be the same as the information presented on Day 2.

To participate in the main session and the BIO breakout on either Day 1 (November 4) or Day 2 (November 5), please use the links below:

Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (Mid-scale RI-1): NSF 21-505 Q&A – Main meeting
1:00 p.m. – 1:40 p.m. EST
Join ZoomGov Meeting: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/j/1614702269?pwd=djl0Z2hnU3I3QXNiRHYraitMclhjZz09
Meeting ID: 161 470 2269
Passcode: 5i8ELv

BIO Directorate Breakout
1:45 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EST
Join ZoomGov Meeting: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/j/1605815851?pwd=THJGL3JIYjRYdGVoQ3VzT08rQitOZz09
Meeting ID: 160 581 5851
Passcode: g&2Xz!

Reposted from DBIInfo

DCL 21-017: Conferences to Prepare for the Transformation of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Research through Information Synthesis and Integration

The field of molecular and cellular biosciences has generated vast amounts of knowledge about cellular parts and processes through advances in biophysical, -omics, and imaging technologies, among others. The work of synthesizing this information, such as harmonizing and collectively interpreting divergent datasets, developing new analytical approaches and tools, building models and theories, and integrating knowledge from within and across various disciplines, can have a transformative impact on all of biology.

NSF has a history of supporting information synthesis through large scale centers, such as the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), that have engaged thousands of investigators over 10-year investment periods and have led to striking advances in their fields.

To begin planning for a synthesis center, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences has released a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 21-017) announcing the availability of conference funding to build networks of scientists with diverse perspectives to formulate ideas for a synthesis center in molecular and cellular sciences. To be considered for FY 2021 funding, proposals responsive to this DCL should be received before April 21, 2021. Proposals will be awarded on a rolling basis. Important details about preparing and submitting a competitive conference proposal are included in the announcement.

Future Topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator: NSF Wants Your Ideas

Your ideas must meet:
Significant national-scale societal impact.
Be built upon basic research.
Convergence research approach.
Submissions are due November 9, 2020.

NSF Wants Your Ideas! Requesting Future Topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator

The NSF Convergence Accelerator has issued a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF-21-012): Request for Information on Future Topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator to capture national-scale societal impact ideas from the global community for fiscal year 2022. The request for information (RFI) is the kickoff of the Convergence Accelerator’s ideation process. The providers of selected ideas will be asked to submit a conference proposal to further develop the proposed idea and to gather insights for a final report to assist NSF in determining convergence research topics for 2022.

Participants from academia, industry, government, non-profit, and other sectors are encouraged to submit their ideas at https://bit.ly/31sNzDg. Responses to the RFI are due by November 9, 2020.

Upcoming Webinars for RFI
Interested individuals may join the Convergence Accelerator on October 21 or 27, 2020 to learn about the program’s ideation process, specifically focusing on the FY 2022 RFI on future topics. Attendees will learn about the Convergence Accelerator’s model and fundamentals, designed to leverage a convergence approach to transition basic research and discovery into practice. Through this program, fundamental knowledge generated by MCB-supported science can be transitioned to address complex societal issues.

The goal of this webinar is to bring awareness of this exciting opportunity to accelerate NSF-funded research and discovery to further societal impact.

Wednesday, October 21, 2-3:30 p.m. (ET)
To register, visit https://bit.ly/NSFCA_Oct21_RFIWebinar

Tuesday, October 27, 2-3:30 p.m. (ET) 
To register, visit https://bit.ly/NSFCA_Oct27_RFIWebinar

After registering a confirmation email containing the meeting information, including how to join will be provided. 

For additional information on the NSF Convergence Accelerator program, visit https://www.nsf.gov/od/oia/convergence-accelerator/ or email C-Accel@nsf.gov.

From the AD: BIO “No-Deadline” Solicitations Migrating to Research.gov

As part of NSF’s ongoing efforts to innovate and migrate proposal preparation and submission capabilities from FastLane to Research.gov (see Important Notice No. 147), the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) has announced that proposal submissions for our “no-deadline” programs will migrate to Research.gov beginning with revised solicitations to be released in the near future. This change was announced in a Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-129) released today and is the first phase of a migration of all NSF solicitations to Research.gov.

Specifically, the following programs will have new solicitations published in the coming weeks at which point investigators should begin submitting proposals through Research.gov. There will be a grace period of 90-days from the date on which the new solicitations are published during which proposals can still be submitted through FastLane. After the 90-day period, the new solicitations will no longer be available in FastLane and any new proposals must be submitted through Research.Gov (or Grants.Gov).

The programs whose solicitations will migrate from FastLane to Research.gov are:

Research.gov improves the user experience while also reducing administrative burden. The system is also flexible enough to meet both users’ changing needs and emerging government requirements. A significant fraction of proposals is already being submitted through Research.gov and investigators report it to be intuitive to use. We do not anticipate that the change to Research.gov will have significant impacts on the submission process. This migration will not affect the merit review process in any way.

To support the community through this migration, technical support and FAQs and videos on proposal submission through Research.gov are available. In addition, we are offering a series of BIO-wide virtual office hours during which you can ask questions of BIO Program Officers.

The virtual office hours will occur on Monday, October 19 at 11 a.m. EDT; Tuesday October 20 at 10 a.m. EDT; Wednesday, October 21 at 1 p.m. EDT; and Thursday, October 22 at 3 p.m. EDT. Members of the community can register for these sessions via NSF.gov.

Finally, if you have any immediate questions please reach out to BIOnodeadline@nsf.gov, which is monitored by Program Officers from across BIO.

Sincerely,

Image of the signature of Dr. Joanne Tornow, Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

Joanne S. Tornow, Ph.D.

Assistant Director

Repost from DBI: Biology Integration Institutes (BII) Program Revised Solicitation

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) has released a revised solicitation (NSF 20-601) under the Biology Integration Institutes (BII) Program. Revisions to the solicitation include the elimination of both the “Design” track and the requirement to submit a Letter of Intent. In addition, there is an earlier submission deadline of January 13, 2021.

Launched this year, this program supports collaboration of researchers investigating multiple disciplines within and beyond biology. Visit the blog from the Division of Biological Infrastructure to learn more about the program and recently funded institutes.

New Collaboration between NSF and the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has established an agreement on research cooperation with the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR). The Dear Colleague Letter, titled, “NSF/Physics/MCB Lead Agency Opportunity at the Physics – Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Interface” (NSF 20-120), encourages collaboration between the U.S. and French research communities.

Two NSF divisions – the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) and the Division of Physics (PHY) – are participating in this collaboration. Proposals must address the research priorities of each of the participating entities: ANR, MCB, and PHY. Proposals that use multidisciplinary approaches that emphasize quantitative, predictive and theory driven science aimed at understanding mechanisms underlying essential life processes at the molecular, subcellular and cellular scales are sought. Priority will be given to proposals that leverage unique resources and capabilities of partners in the U.S. and France.

A registration file (dossier) must be submitted by December 1, 2020. For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see DCL NSF 20-120.

BIO Renews Collaboration with UKRI/BBSRC

a colorful abstract picture on a black background

The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) is renewing its collaboration with the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), described in Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) NSF 20-118.

Titled “UKRI/BBSRC-NSF/BIO Lead Agency Opportunity in Biological Informatics, Microbes and the Host Immune System, Quantum Biology and Synthetic Cell,” the DCL describes four new topical areas associated with the lead agency opportunity. The lead agency scheme allows for reciprocal acceptance of peer review through unsolicited mechanisms and helps reduce some of the current barriers to international collaborations.

There is a two-part application process: a letter of Intention to Submit (due October 21, 2020) will be reviewed for project eligibility. Eligible proposals will then be invited to submit to the appropriate lead agency program. Refer to the DCL for important details.

Projects must be a collaboration between at least one investigator in the US and one in the UK, must address the priorities of both UKRI/BBSRC and appropriate NSF/BIO divisions, and must address the topical areas identified in the DCL. Additionally, proposers must provide a clear rationale for the need for a US-UK collaboration, including the unique expertise and synergy that the collaborating groups will bring to the project.

For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see DCL NSF 20-118. Please also see this NSF announcement about the collaboration.

Photo credit: agsandrew/Shutterstock.com

NSF releases call for cross-disciplinary teams to investigate AI to Advance Biology

NSF has released a new solicitation for National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes (NSF 20-604). The solicitation involves multiple NSF Directorates, including BIO, other federal agencies, and corporations such as Amazon and Google. It also includes a call for AI to Advance Biology (Theme 7).

This Institute theme seeks bold AI-based advances and information infrastructure to push the frontiers of biology, increase our understanding of complex systems, and provide a theoretical basis for original research across the biological sciences. Examples of challenges and activities under the theme are included in the solicitation.

Since such applications of AI to biological problems will ultimately require observation and hypothesis testing, the Institute should incorporate directed efforts to build transdisciplinary teams made up of researchers led or co-led by biologists with appropriate domain knowledge as well as AI researchers and data scientists. Education should be a key component of an Institute and the proposal should include plans to train a unique group of scientists with skills in modern biological sciences and AI who will be capable of leveraging knowledge and technologies to further advance both disciplines and stimulate applications that drive the bioeconomy.

The deadline for proposals is December 4, 2020. To learn about upcoming webinars and to see a list of program officers, visit the AI Institutes program page.

For background on the AI Institutes program, read the post on NSF’s Science Matters blog or read the announcement of recent awards under the program from the White House.

Office Hours: Q&A on Responding to Community Needs; CAREER Deadline Extended

Virtual Office Hours: Q&A
At the virtual Office Hours event hosted July 8 by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB), program directors addressed questions submitted by the MCB research community. Topics included research and funding priorities, COVID-19 concerns, the no-deadline proposal submission process, broader impacts, and more. Visit the Office Hours page to view the presentation as well presentations from as all earlier Office Hours.

The next Office Hours will be held August 12, 2020 at 2-3pm EST; the topic will be “NSF-Supported Facilities of Interest.” Registration is required; register here.


CAREER Deadline Extension
NSF understands that universities and research institutions are facing unprecedented pandemic-related challenges. In response, the proposal deadline for the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) (NSF 20-525) has been extended to Tuesday, August 11, 2020. For more information, read the blog post from the Division of Environmental Biology.