Systems and Synthetic Biology

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 22-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after October 4, 2021. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 22-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.


Apply to NSF 21-509

The cluster supports proposals that advance and make use of systems and synthetic biology to generate a comprehensive understanding of complex interactions within biological systems across different scales. Proposals using experimental and computational approaches in a synergistic fashion are a high priority. The cluster seeks proposals using tractable established or emerging model systems, including synthetic cells or cell-like systems, that facilitate the investigation of regulatory and metabolic network dynamics and reveal fundamental rules governing complex behavior. The cluster also seeks proposals that investigate the molecular events that drive the interactions and emergent properties of natural and synthetic microbial communities. 

The cluster encourages proposals that use systems and/or synthetic biology approaches to examine fundamental properties of biological systems in the areas of:

  • Mechanistic modeling of all levels of regulatory control, signaling, and metabolic networks and the interactions among networks.
  • The origins of life, boundaries of living systems and the minimal cell.
  • Novel experimental and computational tool development, across different levels of organization and temporal scales, to facilitate the exploration and discovery of fundamental molecular scale mechanisms. Tools that integrate multi-omics data sets to obtain mechanistic insights are also welcome.
  • Molecular to system-wide scale rules of assembly and function in natural or synthetic microbial communities and symbiotic partnerships.

The cluster recognizes that technological advancement can have profound and catalytic influences on the field of cell biology. These advances are often the result of technology in one scientific field being borrowed and applied to another in new and creative ways. The cluster encourages proposals to develop or adapt innovative tools with potential to enable new avenues of cellular investigation that can integrate into systems and synthetic biology studies.  The cluster continues to partner with ENG and MPS, as illustrated in the MODULUS, Sentinels, and Plant Synthetic Biology Dear Colleague Letters. 

The following NSF priorities might also be of interest to the Systems and Synthetic Biology community

  • NSF Big Ideas: Understanding Rules of Life, Harnessing the Data Revolution and NSF Includes
  • Industries of the Future: Biotechnology/Bioeconomy, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Manufacturing.

Investigators considering submitting proposals to the cluster, especially in the area of technology innovation, should contact an SSB program officer to discuss its suitability for scientific review in the cluster before submission.

Program Contacts

David A. Rockcliffe (703) 292-7123 BIO/MCB
Bianca Garner (703) 292-8440 BIO/MCB
Anthony G. Garza (703) 292-2489 BIO/MCB
Elebeoba May
Program Director (703) 292-2100
Arcady R. Mushegian (703) 292-8528 BIO/MCB

Awards Made Through This Program

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Map of recent awards made through this program