NSF and NobleReach Emerge select 11 projects to speed biotechnology development and translation

Pilot will enable selected principal investigators to accelerate bringing their research to the market and society

The U.S. National Science Foundation and the nonprofit NobleReach Emerge, part of the nonprofit organization NobleReachTM Foundation, have chosen the first 11 NSF-funded research projects that will receive additional investment to accelerate the translation of research into biotechnologies and bio-inspired designs with commercial and societal impacts. This pilot will help inform future translational funding opportunities.

Since the $5 million collaboration between NSF and NobleReach Emerge was announced in January 2023, NSF identified projects funded by its Directorate for Biological Sciences and potentially aligned with this collaboration based on market research, grant analysis and investigator-readiness evaluations. For these projects, NSF and NobleReach Emerge staff in turn considered research directions with potential for commercial applications, including by connecting NSF-funded researchers and students with NobleReach Emerge commercialization experts. Now that the 11 research projects have been selected, NobleReach Emerge will work with the NSF principal investigators and students to prepare their research for the market.

"We're thrilled to offer this additional support to these NSF-funded biotechnology researchers," said Barry Johnson, division director of the Division of Translational Impacts within the NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP), which invested in this activity. "Their work has the potential to make an incredible impact on the economy and society, and this pilot will provide customized support to help them translate their research from the lab to the market. Through pilots like this one with NobleReach Emerge, we can accelerate the translation of NSF's investments in basic research to products that positively benefit society."

NobleReach Emerge has helped researchers assess the potential paths to product development and their teams' business fundamentals. Working with a team of experienced advisors, this tailored assessment is now being used to uniquely match and embed entrepreneurs to help the research teams take critical steps toward translation including intellectual property and market analyses, product development, go-to-market strategies and pitch deck creation. 

"This partnership between NSF and NobleReach Emerge is off to a terrific start, and together we have identified innovative approaches and potentially transformative projects," said Glenn Gaffney, chief strategy officer at the NobleReach Foundation. "We are excited to collaborate with these 11 research teams to help move new technologies, capabilities and services toward commercial use in support of NSF's vision." 

This investment aims to serve as a model for creating a sustained national technology translation program for critical technology areas with broad economic and societal applications. Below are the NSF-funded projects participating in the pilot. 

  • PlantSynBio/TR-Tech-PGR: Targeted integration of user-defined DNA in plants (NSF 2149964Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
  • CAREER: Tailoring hormone responses in plants via synthetic signal integration devices (NSF 1750006North Carolina State University.
  • Ideal eukaryotic tetrazine ligations for imaging protein dynamics in live cells (NSF 2054824Oregon State University.
  • Collaborative Research: Sustaining the USA National Phenology Network (NSF 2031660)  University of Arizona.
  • CyVerse: Cyberinfrastructure for the life sciences (NSF 1743442University of Arizona.
  • NeuroNex Technology Hub: Miniaturized open source devices for calcium imaging, electrophysiology, and real-time control of neural activity (NSF 1707408) UCLA.
  • NeuroNex Technology Hub: Nemonic: Next generation multiphoton neuroimaging consortium (NSF 1934288University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • CAREER: Characterization and development of prokaryotic argonautes for synthetic biology (NSF 2143856) University of Delaware.
  • iDigBio: Sustaining the digitization, mobilization, accessibility, and use of biodiversity specimen data in U.S. museum and academic collections (NSF 2027654) University of Florida.
  • NSF2026: EAGER: Designing high performing novel landscapes to tackle climate change using gamification & crowdsourcing (NSF 2033320) University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
  • Collaborative Research: The Environmental Data Initiative – long-term availability of research data (NSF 2223103) University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The NSF and NobleReach Emerge collaboration is an example of a set of pilot activities that NSF’s TIP directorate has initiated. These pilots provide an opportunity to learn from new approaches to help improve the agency's overall approach to funding research and innovation. Pilots involve defining and testing hypotheses and assessing the outcomes to determine whether the approaches are worthy of further investment and scaling. To learn more information about TIP and its funded pilots, visit https://new.nsf.gov/tip/latest. To learn more about NobleReach Emerge, visit https://noblereachfoundation.org/bringing-emergingtechnologies-to-life/