funding

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.

DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER: NSF REGIONAL INNOVATION ENGINES (RIE) PROGRAM

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) newly established Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) has announced the NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program. This bold new initiative aims to significantly expanding our Nation’s innovation capacity by investing in key areas of national interest and economic promise, in every region of the United States. To accomplish this ambitious goal, the program will fund the development of Regional Innovation Engines that will cultivate and sustain activities in use-inspired research and development, translation of innovation to practice, entrepreneurship, partnership and stakeholder development, and workforce development to realize thriving regional innovation ecosystems. The outcomes of this program will enhance the nation’s economic and industrial competitiveness as well as national security.

The NSF Engines program provides up to ten years of funding per Engine award with a maximum budget of $160M, with up to an additional two years of funding to support development activities before creating an Engine. The program solicits proposals corresponding to three award types, as outlined below.

  • Type-1 awards are development awards that provide seed funding to enable awardees to lay the groundwork for establishing a new NSF Engine, with the goal of catalyzing a new innovation ecosystem for a specific topic area. Type-1 awards are intended to allow teams to prepare for the submission of a successful Type-2 proposal. The duration of a Type-1 award is up to 24 months, with a maximum proposed budget of $1M.
  • Type-2 awards are intended to support awardees representing a geographical region of service that are well-primed to support a regional innovation ecosystem. Type-2 awards provide funding for up to 10 years, with a total maximum budget of $160M.

Submission of a Type-1 development proposal is not required for the submission of Type-2 proposal. See the NSF Engines Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for further details on the award types and the differences between the various types.

The BAA specifies proposal deadlines for both proposal types. Prior to submission of proposals, teams are required to submit a Concept Outline, which is due June 30, 2022, for both proposal types. Approval of a Concept Outline from a cognizant NSF Program Officer is required to submit a full proposal.

For more information about the NSF Engines program including frequently asked questions and upcoming webinars, visit the NSF Engines program website. Additionally, visit the NSF Engines BAA website to view proposal deadlines and information on award types and differences.   See MCB’s Blog Post from May 10 to learn more about NSF sponsored Bioeconomy Workshops that address critical national needs relevant to Engines.

MCB ANNOUNCES THE SECOND VERSION OF SENTINELS: DREAM SENTINELS

MCB has replaced the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), Sentinel Cells for the Surveillance and Response to Emergent Infectious Diseases (NSF 20-105) with a new DCL:  

Sentinel Systems that Detect, Recognize, Actuate, and Mitigate Emergent Biological Threats (DREAM Sentinels).

In this new Sentinels DCL, MCB again partners with the Directorate for Engineering’s Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems to call for proposals to be submitted to core programs that address novel synthetic biology approaches to quickly sense and respond to the next emergent biological threat prior to its evolution in its host or transmission to human populations.

All proposals submitted in response to this DCL should include biosensing and bioactuation elements that address a biological threat. The biosensing element should leverage the power of modern biotechnology and deliver robust and specific recognition of the biological threat. The results of bioactuation should alert the user, destroy the threat, protect the host, or initiate an immune response or other strategies that would mitigate the threat. Other possible areas of interest are included in the DCL.

Proposals submitted in response to this DCL should have a title prefaced with “DREAM Sentinels:”. Proposals should be submitted to the Systems and Synthetic Biology cluster where proposals are accepted without deadline and are reviewed as they are received.

Investigators interested in submitting a proposal are strongly encouraged to contact Anthony Garza, aggarza@nsf.gov. More information on the DCL can be found here.

It is anticipated that up to $3,000,000 will be allocated annually for DREAM Sentinels awards, subject to the availability of funds.

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!

BIO and COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

Updated 5 Mar 2021: A recording of the session is now available (Access Passcode: ++6ZM*=i).

From BioBuzz, the blog of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO): “Throughout the past year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported the research community by providing guidance, funding flexibilities, and deadline extensions. This support will remain a top priority for NSF as we seek to recover from the pandemic. Up-to-date information on these offerings continues to be added to the agency’s Coronavirus Information page.”

A BIO-wide virtual office hour event covering how BIO is supporting those impacted will be held Tuesday, Mar. 2, 11 am – 12 pm EST. For more information on these efforts and to register for the office hour, read the full post, linked here.