Molecular Foundations for Biotechnology (MFB) 

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences along with the Divisions Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematical Sciences in the Directorate for Mathematical And Physical Sciences (MPS);  Information and Intelligent Systems in the Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE); and Chemical, and Bioengineering Environmental and Transport Systems in the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) have announced the release of the FY 2022 Molecular Foundations for Biotechnology (MFB) solicitation (NSF 22-554).

The MFB program invites the submission of proposals to develop fundamentally new approaches in molecular sciences to drive new directions in biotechnology. This year’s solicitation calls for synergistic research collaborations that involve innovative machine learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods to foster advances in research in biomolecular systems that have the potential to drive innovation in biotechnology. 

This past year we have seen how machine learning can tremendously accelerate scientific progress and potentially transform the nature of research in the physical and life sciences with the prediction of protein structure from its sequence, a goal that drew the efforts of physical and life scientists for decades. Novel, domain-situated ML and AI approaches have the potential to advance our understanding of biological macromolecules, their assemblies, and their processes. This solicitation seeks to catalyze synergistic and innovative work at the interface of ML/AI and the biological, physical, and mathematical sciences and engineering that goes beyond sequence-structure relationships and addresses standing challenges in biology. The funded research should have potential implications for biotechnology. 

Letters of intent (required) are due Feb. 14, 2022. The full proposal deadline is April 14, 2022. 

If you would like further information about this solicitation, please visit NSF 22-554.  

There will be two MFB virtual office hours to answer questions about the solicitation:
– Friday, January 28, at 4 PM EST register here
Wednesday, February 2, at 4 PM EST register here.

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.

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.

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.

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.


The two tracks for submission to the “Enabling Discovery through GEnomic Tools (EDGE)” solicitation (NSF 20-532) have changed. EDGE now supports research in all BIO divisions — which includes the division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB).

The two tracks are titled “Functional Genomic Tools” and “Complex Multigenic Traits.”

The Functional Genomic Tools track combines the comprehensive and targeted tracks from the previous EDGE solicitation (NSF 19-527) and is intended for proposals aimed at developing tools for gene manipulation and/or phenotyping, analytical approaches or infrastructure to overcome one or more blocks to direct tests of gene function on demand.

The Complex Multigenic Traits track is for proposals focused on hypothesis-driven research to understand causal mechanisms connecting genomes and complex multigenic organismal phenomes across a variety of environmental, developmental, social, and/or genomic contexts.

Contact a relevant program director for more information. Read the full solicitation for submission guidelines. There is no letter of intent required and proposals are accepted at any time.