funding

New Opportunity: Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges (URoL:ASC) 

Building on knowledge from previous investments in the NSF “Big Ideas,” Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges (URoL:ASC) (NSF 23-512) will support use-inspired research across a broad range of living systems to tackle pressing societal concerns.  

Examples of some societal challenges that may be addressed by URoL:ASC proposals are: climate change and associated risks, including geohazards, extreme events, and loss of biodiversity; environmental degradation, including impacts on land and water resources; inequalities in availability of and access to essential natural assets; lack of sustainability, including for food, energy, and waste production; and threats from pandemic disease,  

As in previous Big Idea solicitations, this new activity,   is a cross-directorate NSF program and will bring together interdisciplinary teams that span two or more NSF Directorates (BIO, CISE, EDU, ENG, GEO, MPS, SBE, and TIP).  

This solicitation differs in key respects from previous solicitations associated with the Understanding the Rules of Life Big Idea: 

  • It focuses on how rules of life can be used rather than discovered 
  • Proposals should begin with a description of broader impacts, articulating the expected outcomes of the research; 
  • Proposers must adopt a co-production strategy that involves both producers and users of the research outcomes in all phases of the research; 
  • Projects must integrate innovative education and training activities aimed at fostering convergent research;  
  • Projects should actively promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in all activities by involving members of underrepresented groups as PIs, co-PIs, postdoctoral researchers, students, and other personnel.  

FFull proposals are due February 15, 2023.  

Opportunities to Learn More 
NSF Program Directors representing the URoL:ASC program will hold a Virtual Office Hour on December 14th, 2022 from 2:00 PM ET to 3:00 PM ET

Please register for the webinar here: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_rcG95iI9QOOed-VfarsHFQ  

Contact: URoL-ASC@nsf.gov  

DESIGNER CELLS WELCOMES PROPOSALS FOR THE THIRD 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: 

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

The program is now accepting proposals for its third cohort. The due date for proposals for the third year is February 1, 2023.  After this date, proposals will be accepted as core-program submissions to the Systems and Synthetic Biology cluster in MCB.  

In its first and second cohorts, the program made a total of 20 awards. These awards explored several exciting themes, including building synthetic organelles, synthetic approaches to information storage and decoding, strategies for genome transplantation, creating cells with new tunable properties, and studying the dark matter of the epitranscriptome. A full list of the Designer Cells awards can be found here.   

In the third 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, while maintaining high function in synthetic cells.” 

DON’T MISS THE DEADLINE!

PREPROPOSALS DUE SOON FOR A NEW SYNTHESIS CENTER FOR MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOSCIENCES

Preproposals to establish a new Synthesis Center for Molecular and Cellular Sciences (SCMCS) are due January 13, 2023.

The center is envisioned to facilitate innovative synthesis and integration of available biological data and related scientific information to explain or predict complex molecular and cellular phenomena. The center will support synthesis of existing data by multi-disciplinary research teams with an overall goal to explain and predict how structural, functional and organizational knowledge of biomolecules in the cell relates to dynamic, phenotypic behavior. In pursuing this goal, the center is not expected to generate new primary data or replicate existing cyberinfrastructure.  Broadening participation and training of the next generation of scientists is expected to be central to these efforts.

For more information, refer to the solicitation and to the recording and slides associated with a recent webinar.  The webinar reviewed the elements of the center and answered questions on the preproposals, the role of the director, participation of foreign collaborators, review criteria for proposals and distribution of funding. 

In 2020, the NSF explored the idea of a synthesis center in a series of conferences.  Reports from those conferences can be found here.

Questions about the centers and the preproposal process can be directed to scmcs@nsf.gov or to the following cognizant program officers:

NSF BRC-BIO UPCOMING SUBMISSION DEADLINE

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) would like to bring your attention to the upcoming deadline for an NSF program designed to support pre-tenure faculty, Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO). The next submission window opens on December 1 and closes on December 31, 2022.

BRC-BIO (current solicitation NSF 22-500) is a BIO wide program that supports early career faculty in the development of a sustainable research program. Eligibility is limited to faculty at the Assistant Professor rank within 3-years of employment at an institution that is not among the nation’s most research intensive, which includes minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs).

Proposed projects are expected to focus on research from any area of biology that is supported by the BIO directorate at NSF. MCB focused projects encompass content that falls within one of the four cluster areas: Cellular Dynamics and Function, Molecular Biophysics, Genetic Mechanisms, and Systems and Synthetic Biology.

Research applications require a six-page research plan, which includes both intellectual merit and broader impacts, a two-page Impact statement, and a letter from the Department Chair (or more senior organizational official). Projects should be presented in sufficient detail to enable evaluation based on the potential to: a) provide valuable new scientific insights that will enable future research, and b) integrate the research into an educational training environment that engages undergraduates in authentic research experiences. An additional expectation is that the broader impacts activities of these projects, including training, have a focus on inclusion and broadening participation in biological research.

Budget awards are for a maximum of 36 months and up to $450,000 plus $50,000 for equipment, for a total of $500,000 (including both direct and indirect funds). You are encouraged to reach out to program officers with any questions at BRC-BIO@nsf.gov.

Additional information, including past webinars and links to funded BRC-BIO awards, can be found here.

France/US Lead Agency Funding Opportunity at Interface of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and Physics

The NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences Division of Physics in the (NSF/BIO/MCB and NSF/MPS/PHY) recently released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) entitled “ANR – NSF/MCB/PHY Lead Agency Opportunity at the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences – Physics Interface” (NSF 22-129). This DCL announces the continued collaboration between the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and NSF MCB and PHY divisions 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. Priority will be given to proposals that leverage unique resources and capabilities of partners in the U.S. and France.

For FY23, proposals should be submitted to ANR, and ANR will share proposal and review information with NSF.  To apply, a registration file (dossier) must be submitted by November 7, 2022. For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see NSF DCL NSF 22-129 and ANR’s AAPG Generic Call 2023.

NSF issues a new funding opportunity on Quantum Sensing 

Through a new solicitation entitled Quantum Sensing Challenges for Transformational Advances in Quantum Systems (QuSeC-TAQS; NSF 22-630), NSF seeks to support interdisciplinary teams of three or more investigators to explore highly innovative, original, and potentially transformative research on quantum sensing.  The QuSeC-TAQS program aligns with recommendations articulated in the strategic plan, Bringing Quantum Sensors to Fruition, that was produced by the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science, under the auspices of the National Quantum Initiative

QuSeC-TAQS is a cross-cutting NSF funding opportunity for which the Biological Sciences Directorate is a key partner.  Research involving biological systems and/or participation of scientists from different fields of biology is encouraged. Research topics might include:  investigation of quantum phenomena in biological systems; use of quantum devices and approaches in the investigation of biological problems; or creation of new biocompatible quantum probes and sensing protocols to gain insights into complex biological systems that fundamentally cannot be accessed through classical measurements. Outcomes from such studies are expected to advance knowledge of biological functions and dynamics within cells and could potentially provide new platforms for biotechnology. 

Preliminary proposals are required and due December 16, 2022; and full proposals are due April 3, 2023. 

Additional questions should be directed to qusec@nsf.gov  

Agile BioFoundry Selects New Collaborations

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the selection of six projects to conduct research and development that will advance the U.S. bioeconomy.

The selectees were chosen from applicants for a direct funding opportunity titled  “Accelerating Innovations in Biomanufacturing Approaches through Collaboration Between NSF and the DOE BETO funded Agile BioFoundry,” which provides support for researchers from institutions of higher education and nonprofits to collaborate with the Agile BioFoundry (ABF). Selected projects leverage the rapid prototyping and advanced biotechnology resources available at the ABF to accelerate basic research projects to deployment.

BETO and NSF have selected the following projects:

Both the NSF and BETO recognize the critical roles that synthetic and engineering biology play in advancing the U.S. bioeconomy. The selected projects all directly contribute to the production of renewable biochemicals and biofuels and build foundational technologies critical for the decarbonization of the industrial and transportation sectors.

Funded by BETO, ABF aims to advance biomanufacturing by uniting and expanding the capabilities of the national laboratories to offer a robust, agile biomanufacturing platform accessible to researchers across the private and public sectors.

ABF partners include Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and more than a dozen university and industry partners.

BIO UPDATES TOPICS IN COLLABORATION WITH UKRI/BBSRC

The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) just announced updated topics for its collaboration with the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for the coming year, described in Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) NSF 22-107.

Titled “UKRI/BBSRC-NSF/BIO Lead Agency Opportunity in Biological Informatics, Systems Understanding of Host-Microbe Interactions, Synthetics Cells and Cellular Systems, and Synthetic Microbial Communities” the DCL describes updates on topical areas associated with the lead agency opportunity:

  • Biological informatics
  • Systems understanding of host-microbe interactions
  • Synthetic cells and cellular systems

It also outlines a new area of interest in synthetic microbial communities.

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.

Proposal Information
There is a two-part application process:

  • A letter of Expression of Interest, due on September 21, 2022, will be reviewed for project eligibility.
  • Eligible proposals will then be invited to submit to the appropriate lead agency program. Full proposals submitted to NSF should be received by March 2023 to receive full consideration. 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 division(s), 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 22-107.

MCB ANNOUNCES A FUNDING OPPORTUNITY FOR BUILDING SYNTHETIC MICROBIAL COMMUNITIES FOR BIOLOGY

In recent years, researchers have assembled synthetic microbial communities that have novel compositions, genetics, and phenotypes, and they have used these communities to address both fundamental biological questions and a range of societal problems. To support such research efforts, NSF has released the Building Synthetic Microbial Communities for Biology, Mitigating Climate Change, Sustainability and Biotechnology (Synthetic Communities) solicitation (NSF 22-607).

The goal of this solicitation is to support research that addresses one or more of the three themes:

  1. Define the underlying mechanisms or rules that drive the formation, maintenance, or evolution of synthetic microbial communities
  2. Use synthetic microbial communities to address fundamental biological questions, including questions in molecular biology, cellular/organismal biology, ecology, and evolution
  3. Build synthetic communities with biotechnology, bioeconomy, or environmental engineering applications

Full Proposal Deadlines: October 03, 2022 (due by 5 p.m. submitter’s local time)

Anticipated Funding Amount: $9,500,000

To learn more, read the solicitation posted here and reach out to any of the cognizant Program Officers below.

Anthony Garzaaggarza@nsf.gov(703) 292-8440BIO/MCB
John McDowelljmcdowel@nsf.gov(703) 292-8008BIO/IOS
Andrea Porras-Alfaroaporrasa@nsf.gov(703) 292-2944BIO/DEB
Mamta Rawatmrawat@nsf.gov(703) 292-7265BIO/IOS

MCB ANNOUNCES COMPETITION FOR A NEW SYNTHESIS CENTER FOR MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR SCIENCES

In recent decades, the biological sciences have experienced an unprecedented growth in data as a result of new experimental technologies, advances in computational power, and big data approaches to research. There are, however, many barriers to making full use of available datasets.

Credit: Nicolle Rager, National Science Foundation

To unlock the full potential of existing data, NSF seeks to establish a Synthesis Center for Molecular and Cellular Sciences (SCMCS) (NSF 22-608) that will create new knowledge through innovative synthesis and integration of available data and related information. The Center should advance our ability to explain and predict how biomolecular structures, interactions, organization, and functions lead to dynamic cellular phenotypes, by focusing on complex questions and using contemporary approaches that are data-intensive, team-based, and promote open science. The Center will not directly support generation of new data, nor fund an individual research group, but rather will be dedicated to facilitating synthesis of available data by multidisciplinary research teams.

The Center must:

  • Address a compelling set of scientific questions in molecular and cellular biosciences that require or are ripe for breakthroughs from synthesis of available data.
  • Enable synthesis research, i.e., integration of diverse theories, methods, and data, bringing together cross-disciplinary expertise to advance mechanistic and predictive understanding of molecular and cellular systems.
  • Develop or provide the necessary resources to enable data management and integration, advance open science strategies, enhance access to existing infrastructure, foster collaboration and team science, and promote standards and best practices for synthesis research.
  • Build an effective and evidence-based training enterprise for the next generation of scientists.
  • Integrate efforts to broaden participation across demographic, geographic, institutional, and disciplinary lines in all activities.

Program Timeline:

  • SCMCS Program Webinar: September 15, 2022
  • Preliminary proposals due: January 13, 2023
  • Results of preliminary proposal review communicated to proposers: March 2023
  • Full proposals due: July 07, 2023
  • Reverse Site Visit (RSV) notifications and scheduling: November 2023
  • Declined proposers informed, and recommended awards announced: January 2024
  • Anticipated start date of awards: February 15, 2024

Anticipated Funding Amount: $20,000,000

To learn more, read the solicitation posted here and reach out to an MCB program director.

NSF will hold an informational webinar on September 15, 2022. Registration information for this webinar is posted on the Program Web page. The SCMCS funding opportunity will also be discussed in upcoming MCB Virtual Office Hours.