Funding Opportunity

From The AD: New Funding Opportunities for Understanding the Rules of Life

Dear Colleagues,

BIO is excited to announce to the biological sciences community two new funding opportunities under the Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) Big Idea: 1) Epigenetics and 2) Microbiome Theory and Mechanisms (MTM). The URoL Big Idea seeks to create a new paradigm at the convergence of science, engineering, and technology that will elucidate theoretical frameworks (rules) to enable prediction of the diversity of evolutionary solutions that biological systems use to support life processes seen across the planet. The National Science Foundation has recently invested $36 million in the first projects under the URoL portfolio from two separate solicitations and across more than thirty institutions.

The Epigenetics and MTM opportunities represent a collaboration across Directorates and Offices within the National Science Foundation. Specifically, Epigenetics intends to enable innovative research and promote multidisciplinary education and workforce training in the broad area of epigenetics, while MTM aims to understand and establish theory and mechanisms that govern the structure and function of microbiomes.

Integrative perspectives and research approaches from more than one research discipline are welcomed, as this is a cross-Directorate effort. The interdisciplinary scope of both programs aims to provide unique training and outreach opportunities to train the next generation of scientists in a diversity of scientific approaches and to engage society more generally.

Both programs offer two submission tracks:

  • Track 1 – for projects with a total budget of up to $500,000 and an award duration of up to 3 years, and
  • Track 2 – for projects with a total budget of up to $3,000,000 and award duration of up to 5 years.

For complete details on deadlines and submission guidelines, refer to the Epigenetics program website or contact the Epigenetics Team (, and the MTM program website or the MTM Team (

BIO looks forward to continuing working on this cross-Directorate venture.


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

Joanne Tornow, PhD
Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

Re-posted from Bio-Buzz

New solicitation – Semiconductor Synthetic Biology for Information Storage and Retrieval (NSF 20-518)

Funding is now available through the Semiconductor Synthetic Biology for Information Storage and Retrieval Technologies (SemiSynBio-II) solicitation (NSF 20-518) which seeks to leverage synthetic biology tools, concepts, and methodologies to advance the development of next-generation semiconductor information storage and retrieval technologies that are driven by biological principles and use biomaterials in the fabrication of storage and retrieval devices and systems.  

The goal of the SemiSynBio-II research program will be to foster high-risk/high-reward, multi-disciplinary, longer-term basic research leading to novel high-payoff solutions for the information-storage and retrieval industries based on recent progress in synthetic biology and the know-how of the semiconductor technology.

This program aims to seed and foster collaborations among the researchers in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, computer science, and engineering disciplines to develop new cross-disciplinary projects and curricula that will model and integrate concepts, tools and methodology.

This solicitation builds from the previous SemiSynBio solicitation (NSF 17-557, no longer active) to include aspects of data retrieval. Proposals can be submitted during the submission window (due by 5 p.m. submitter’s local time): February 14, 2020 – March 16, 2020. Full program details including program priorities, submission guidelines, and contact information can be found in the full solicitation NSF 20-518.

Photo credit: SidorArt/

New Solicitation – Transitions to Excellence in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Research (Transitions) (NSF 20-505)

Funding opportunities are now available for mid-career or later-stage researchers (Associate or Full Professor, or equivalent) to expand or make a transition in their research programs via a sabbatical leave or similar mechanism of professional development and then develop a new research program in their own lab based on the sabbatical leave experience.

Awards will fund up to six months of PI salary during the first sabbatical or professional development year, followed by support to continue the research program for two subsequent years upon the PI’s return to normal academic duties. Proposals are welcome in all areas currently funded by MCB, and proposals addressing major open questions at the intersections of biology with other disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer sciences, and engineering are of particular interest to the program.

Proposals are accepted any time, in accordance with MCB’s no-deadline core solicitation. Program details, including more information on program priorities and additional criteria, can be found in the full solicitation (NSF 20-505).

Expanded Funding Opportunities for Collaborations between NSF BIO and UK Researchers

a colorful abstract picture on a black background

NSF BIO researchers can now submit collaborative proposals with British institutions in four new topic areas, Bioinformatics, Microbiome, Quantum Biology, and Synthetic Biology/Synthetic Cell. This opportunity to submit collaborative projects that are reviewed only once, either at NSF BIO or BBSRC, is highlighted in the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) NSF 19-058, which explains the process for preparation of the letter of intent and proposal submission to this funding opportunity. 

There is a 2-stage application process: a letter of intent (due July 2, 2019) after which full proposals will be invited to their appropriate programs in both the UKRI/BBSRC (due 2nd October 2019) and NSF/BIO (full proposals accepted anytime).

Projects must be a collaboration between at least one investigator in the US and one in the UK and must address the priorities of both UKRI/BBSRC and appropriate NSF/BIO Divisions. 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 19-058.

New Funding Opportunities: Rules of Life Solicitations

a picture of a hand dripping drops of water onto a small plant with dramatic sunlight in the backgroundThe National Science Foundation recently announced two new solicitations: Understanding the Rules of Life: Epigenetics (NSF 18-600), and Understanding the Rules of Life: Building a Synthetic Cell (NSF 18-599). These NSF-wide opportunities are part of Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype, one of NSF’s 10  “Big Ideas” for future investment.


A headline banner reading "Understanding the rules of life: epigenetics" underneath of which is a cartoon of a short strand of DNA wrapped around three histones like three beads on a single string

Understanding the Rules of Life: Epigenetics (NSF 18-600) invites proposals which investigate heritable biological or chemical mechanisms that produce a phenotypic effect without alteration of the DNA sequence.  Projects must integrate education perspectives and research approaches from more than one research discipline (e.g., biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geology, mathematics, physics, social and behavioral sciences).

Full proposals are due February 1, 2019 and can be submitted in one of two submission tracks:

(1) award duration of up to 3 years and a total budget of $500,000 or

(2) award duration of up to 5 years and a total budget of $3,000,000.

The specifics of the program priorities and areas of emphasis, as well as additional limitations and guidelines, can be found in the full solicitation.


A title banner reading "understanding the rules of life: building a synthetic cell" over an image of a plant root tip with each cell glowing green due to GFP attached to the cell wall

Understanding the Rules of life: Building a Synthetic Cell: An Ideas Lab Activity (NSF 18-599) invites researchers to apply to participate in an inter-disciplinary Ideas Lab focused on facilitating innovative research projects for designing, fabricating, and validating synthetic cells that express specified phenotypes. Up to $10,000,000 of funding is available for successful project proposals resulting from the Ideas Lab.

Building a synthetic cell is a grand challenge at the interface between biological, mathematical, computer and physical sciences and engineering.  Meeting this challenge requires simultaneous careful exploration of the social and ethical dimensions of such research as well as educating today’s students to engage in the activities and technologies required to develop and use synthetic cells.

To apply to this program, researchers should:

  • submit preliminary proposals due December 28, 2018,
  • participate, if selected, in the Ideas Lab workshop to be held February 25 – March 1, 2019, and
  • if invited to do so, submit, as part of a team, a full proposal due May 13, 2019.

Full details regarding the specifics of the research ideas, proposal limitations, and the application process can be found in the full solicitation.

New Funding Opportunity: MathBioSys

The infographic shows a new funding opportunity. The title in yellow with a blue background at the top says New Funding Opportunity: MathBioSys. The rest of the image is grey with white angled lines and white or yellow text. A drawing of a light bulb on top of math layered with biological drawings and the words MathBioSys is the middle of the image. The text reads, "To faciliate collaborations among mathematicians, statisticians, and biologists, the NSF Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO) and Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and the Simons Foundation Divisions of Mathematics and Physical Sciences and Life Sciences will jointly sponsor up to... 3 New Research Centers. The NSF-Simons Research Centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems (MathBioSys) soliciation calls for 5-year proposals with innovative collaborative research new interdisciplinary connections, and education and workforce training at the intersection between mathematics and molecular, cellular, and organismal biology. Letter of Intent Due Date: August 10, 2017. Full Proposal Due Date: September 29, 2017. For more details, go to to read program soliciation: NSF 17-560. Questions? Contact: Dr. Arcady Mushegian, Program Director BIO/MCB, For all other NSF Divisions, refer to the Agency Contacts section of program soliciation NSF 17-560 to find the appropriate point of contact, or direct your email messages to the Program Directors on the MathBioSys Working Group at The bottom of the image shows the NSF and Simons Foundation logos.

Photo Credit: Adapted from Juliann/ 

NSF-Simons Research Centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems hosted a webinar with Q & A on Thursday, June 15, 2017, and the slides presented can be viewed at:

Please read solicitation NSF 17-560 for more information.



Photo for PostThe Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) is excited to announce a new funding opportunity designed to help improve graduate student preparedness for entering the workforce. As the accompanying Dear Colleague Letter NSF 16-067 states, “The NSF will consider support for supplements to existing research awards (FY 2016 and FY 2017) to enhance professional development opportunities for students in PhD programs.” Requests should be made no later than May 20, 2016 for FY 2016 consideration, and no later than April 3, 2017 for FY 2017 consideration.

In MCB, this supplemental funding can be used to support either PhD student participation in professional development courses, or PhD student participation in other experiences that extend beyond the student’s discipline or broaden career options. Please review the Dear Colleague Letter for further information about eligibility and submission requirements.

If you have questions, please contact one of the following MCB representatives from the appropriate cluster:

  • Cellular Dynamics and Function (CDF) and Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) Clusters: Charles Cunningham, Program Director,
  • Genetic Mechanisms (GM) Cluster: Bill Eggleston, Program Director,
  • Molecular Biophysics (MB) Cluster: Wilson Francisco, Program Director,