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.

Supports research that employs systems biology or synthetic biology approaches to address compelling questions in molecular and cellular biology. Tool development to advance systems and synthetic biology is also supported.


Apply to NSF 21-509

The cluster seeks proposals that employ systems and/or synthetic biology to ask exciting questions in the molecular and cellular biosciences.  It supports proposals that test and generate hypotheses about biological systems and that advance systems or synthetic biology as disciplines.  A high priority is research that reveal fundamental rules governing complex behavior and emergent properties.  The cluster welcomes proposals that synergistically combine experimental investigations with computational approaches or mathematical modeling.  

The cluster encourages proposals that use systems or synthetic biology approaches with established, new, or emerging model systems, including synthetic cells, cell-like systems or communities of cells to examine fundamental properties of biological systems in the following areas:

  • Molecular events that drive the assembly, function, and emergent properties of natural and synthetic microbial communities, synthetic cells or cell-like systems;
  • Molecular to system-wide rules of assembly or function of microbial communities;
  • Novel types of biological information storage and transfer;
  • Mechanistic modeling of all levels of gene regulatory control, signaling and metabolic networks and interactions among networks;
  • The origins of life, the boundaries of living systems and the minimal cell;
  • Development of novel experimental, computational or mathematical tools to discover and explore fundamental molecular scale mechanisms; and
  • Integration of multi-omics data sets to obtain mechanistic insights.

Technological advancement has a catalytic influence in the molecular and cellular biosciences. These advances are often the result of technology from one scientific field being applied to another in new and creative ways. The cluster therefore encourages proposals to develop or adapt tools from other fields to provide new insight into biological systems.  The cluster continues to partner with ENG and MPS, as illustrated in the MODULUS, Sentinels, and Plant Synthetic Biology Dear Colleague Letters and the Designer Cells solicitation.  

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; and
  • Industries of the Future: Biotechnology/Bioeconomy, Artificial Intelligence, Future Manufacturing and Advanced Manufacturing.

Investigators considering submitting a proposal to the cluster are welcome to contact an SSB program officer before submission.

Program contacts

Anthony G. Garza (703) 292-2489 BIO/MCB
David A. Rockcliffe (703) 292-7123 BIO/MCB
Bianca Garner (703) 292-8440 BIO/MCB
Ramon Gonzalez (703) 292-8046 BIO/MCB

Awards made through this program

Browse projects funded by this program
Map of recent awards made through this program