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Important information for proposers

All proposals must be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in this funding opportunity and in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that is in effect for the relevant due date to which the proposal is being submitted. It is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the proposal meets these requirements. Submitting a proposal prior to a specified deadline does not negate this requirement.

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.


The Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) cluster seeks proposals that use systems and/or synthetic biology to understand molecular and cellular mechanisms in established, new, or emerging model systems. It supports proposals that test and generate hypotheses about biological systems and that advance systems or synthetic biology as disciplines. A high priority is given to research that reveals fundamental rules governing complex behavior and emergent properties. The cluster also welcomes proposals that synergistically combine experimental investigations with computational approaches or mathematical modeling.

The cluster is particularly interested in proposals that address the following:

  • Molecular to system-wide events that drive the assembly, function, and emergent properties of natural and synthetic microbial communities;
  • Functional modules for synthetic cells or cell-like systems;
  • Origins of life and the minimal cell;
  • Synthetic systems that explore biological diversity beyond that which currently exists in nature;
  • Synthetic systems that make use of epigenetic regulation;
  • Biological information storage and processing;
  • Integration of multi-omics data sets to obtain mechanistic insights;
  • Mechanistic modeling of all levels of gene regulatory control, signaling and metabolic networks, and interactions among networks; and
  • Development of novel experimental, computational, or mathematical tools to discover and explore fundamental molecular-scale mechanisms.

The cluster continues to partner with other divisions in the Directorate for Biological Sciences and with divisions in other directorates, including the Directorates for Engineering and for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Investigators considering submitting a proposal to the cluster are encouraged to contact a SSB Program Director before submission.

Program contacts

Anthony G. Garza
aggarza@nsf.gov (703) 292-2489 BIO/MCB
David A. Rockcliffe
drockcli@nsf.gov (703) 292-7123 BIO/MCB
Bianca Garner
bgarner@nsf.gov (703) 292-8440 BIO/MCB
David J. Klinke
dklinke@nsf.gov (703) 292-2890 BIO/MCB

Awards made through this program

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Map of recent awards made through this program