Internal Deadline: Friday, June 9, 2023, 5pm PT
LOI: August 1, 2023
External Deadline: October 2, 2023
Award Type: Cooperative Agreement
Estimated Number of Awards: 2 to 4
Anticipated Award Amount: $52,000,000 to $72,000,000
Who May Serve as PI: There are no restrictions or limits.
Link to Award: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2023/nsf23585/nsf23585.htm
Process for Limited Submissions
PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Research Initiatives and Infrastructure (RII) Application Portal: https://rii.usc.edu/oor-portal/. Use the template provided here: RII Limited Submission Applicant Template
Materials to submit include:
- (1) Two-Page Proposal Summary (1” margins; single-spaced; standard font type, e.g. Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, or Georgia typeface; font size: 11 pt). Page limit includes references and illustrations. Pages that exceed the 2-page limit will be excluded from review. You must use the template linked above.
- (2) CV – (5 pages maximum)
Note: The portal requires information about the PIs in addition to department and contact information, including the 10-digit USC ID#, Gender, and Ethnicity. Please have this material prepared before beginning this application.
The goal of this solicitation is to support the establishment of BioFoundries that focus on the innovation pipeline and research, while ensuring broad access to the research resources, training, education, and outreach to catalyze our understanding of biological or bio-engineered systems and to support the design-build-test-learn pipeline for rapid translation of basic discoveries into applications. The research must aim to integrate advances in modern biology, chemical biology, biotechnology, and related fields with innovations in automation, high-end measurement infrastructure, nanotechnology, micro-fabrication, integrated testing and data acquisition, and AI-enabled analysis and automation of the scientific discovery process. The user-facing activities of the BioFoundry must ensure that these advances are accessible to the widest possible scientific community. A desirable outcome of the BioFoundry is to establish the standardization of instrumentation, data, and scientific practices that will make possible the integration of data from multiple sources/databases and allow the construction of data analysis pipelines using heterogeneous software data analysis and AI tools that communicate through standard data structures. Ultimately the BioFoundries should aspire to support open collaborations among scientists.
BioFoundries are expected to include mechanisms and resources to ensure reproducibility of results and the ability to share data in both human- and machine-usable formats. BioFoundries should address the issue of reproducibility through verifiable algorithmic approaches to build trust and confidence of the research as well as user community and by providing repositories of data, tools, and algorithms that would allow outside groups to reproduce the scientific results obtained.
The research supported by BioFoundries may follow from the work supported by previous or existing NSF programs, or it could represent an entirely new direction. A key feature of the BioFoundries should be the deep integration of advanced discovery, technological innovation, knowledge sharing, and collaborations to open new avenues for translating results from basic research to societally beneficial outcomes. Additional information on the research and technology components of the BioFoundries can be found in the Proposal Preparation section of this solicitation.
BioFoundries are envisioned to combine characteristics of user facilities and research centers in a scientific ecosystem that includes:
- A user facility that provides strategic technical capacity and infrastructure, resources, samples, workflows, and data, in a manner that is open and responsive to a diverse community of external researchers at various institutions and that fosters the creation of standards for the above;
- Multidisciplinary research teams and technology development teams that conduct in-house research on a focused topic central to the BioFoundry theme, while simultaneously pushing the technical state of the art to develop next-generation instrumentation, experimental and computational methods, standardization and validation processes, workflows and automations, and advancing the capabilities of existing tools in concert with the in-house research teams and the external user community. Such research and technology development may span any aspect of biological and biotechnology domains supported by the NSF.
- Programs for training the next generation of researchers; and
- Activities that permit the BioFoundries to serve as nexus points for academic/industry collaborations and partnerships to enable pathways to translation.
NSF is committed to the inclusion of all people and institutions in the research enterprise. To be competitive, proposers should leverage the full spectrum of diverse talent that the society has to offer.. NSF urges proposers to engage institutions across diverse geographies and types in meaningful and substantive partnerships to ensure that the cohorts of users and trainees involved in this program are broad, diverse, and inclusive, reflective of the Nation’s demography and geography. The program recognizes that in the specific areas of entrepreneurship and technology transfer, several groups are underrepresented and/or under-served. The challenges and barriers for these communities may include limited network access to critical decision-makers, lack of funding, academic incentives, conscious and unconscious bias, and limited availability of mentors. Therefore, one component of building a diverse and inclusive cohort is to ensure that the leadership and management of the project includes robust participation of individuals from groups who have remained underrepresented and/or under-served in their involvement in such endeavors. Proposals must clearly articulate specific steps, both in the short and long term, that will be undertaken to demonstrate the principles of diversity and equity along with commitments to inclusiveness and accessibility.
Organization and Management: It is expected that the management of the BioFoundry will have the necessary intellectual vision, leadership and entrepreneurial experience and the ability to communicate and engage diverse stakeholders (including researchers, industry partners, and the public). The leadership model should empower all team members to contribute, regardless of status and power differences, while establishing a culture of collaboration and inclusion. It is expected that the team should build consensus around goals and activities and facilitate communication among all stakeholders, to build trust and effectively resolve conflicts. Each BioFoundry will have a lead Project PI with demonstrated vision, experience, and capacity to manage a complex, multi-faceted, and innovative enterprise that integrates research, technology development, user facility operations, training, and knowledge transfer. The PI will assemble an effective executive leadership team, with individuals that have clear responsibility for each aspect of the BioFoundry. At the minimum, the leadership team should be comprised of:
- A Managing Director (distinct from the lead PI), whose responsibilities include ongoing operations, financial management, reporting and oversight as well as coordination between the different aspects of the BioFoundry
- A User Facility Coordinator, who will lead the operations of the user facility, coordinate the engagement with the user community and manage the user proposal submission, review and selection process; staffing, instrument time/resource allocation, user training, safety, and user fee structure and other related aspects.
- An External Advisory Board is required for all BioFoundries. (Potential Advisory Board members should not be approached or identified until the BioFoundry is funded.)
Supported and Non-Supported Costs: The BioFoundries Program will support acquisition and development of instrumentation and technologies; cyberinfrastructure, including software and databases; professional staffing, including support for the principal investigators; technical staff; other senior personnel; and a limited number of students and postdoctoral researchers.
Awards for BioFoundries will be made as cooperative agreements with an anticipated initial commitment of six years and total funding of $15,000,000 to $24,000,000. The possibility of continuation is dependent upon overall program evaluation, individual BioFoundry performance, and availability of funding.
While research and technology development are anticipated to occur throughout the duration of the award, user facility operation may ramp up over time and is expected to reach a steady state by Year 3. Approximately 50% of the BioFoundry funds provided by NSF, after subtracting equipment costs (budget form line D) costs, should be devoted to user-facing activities.
The Biofoundries Program will NOT support requests for any of the following:
- Construction, renovation, or modernization of rooms, buildings or research facilities;
- General-purpose and supporting equipment. Supporting equipment refers to basic, durable components of a research facility that are integral to its operation (e.g., biosafety and chemical hoods; elevators; laboratory casework; cryogen storage systems; other general-purpose equipment; general-purpose computational or data storage systems, etc.);
- Sustaining infrastructure and/or building systems. This category includes, but is not limited to, the installation of upgrades to infrastructure related to the supply of power, ventilation, water or research gases; routine multi-purpose computer networks;, standard safety features; and other general purpose systems, such as toxic waste removal systems and telecommunications equipment); or
- General-purpose platforms or environment. This category includes, but is not limited to, general-purpose fixed or non-fixed structures and vehicles whose role is to host or transport an instrument.
In addition, the BioFoundries Program will not support projects that would be eligible for support through core, center, or infrastructure programs funded by other parts of NSF. Proposed BioFoundries should complement investments such as those funded through the Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure Programs or Materials Innovation Platforms.
NSF also does not support research that might be considered exclusively focused on drug testing or biological mechanisms of human diseases. BioFoundry proposal submissions focused exclusively on drug screening for treatment of human diseases will be returned without review.
Prospective PIs are strongly encouraged to consult a cognizant program director prior to submitting to the BioFoundries Program.
Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for more updates and other announcements.