2022 notice of intentions
This opportunity allows US and UK researchers to submit a single collaborative proposal that will undergo a single review process by the lead agency, on behalf of both NSF/BIO and BBSRC.
In 2022 to 2023, proposals will be accepted for UK and US collaborative projects in the areas of intersection between NSF/BIO and BBSRC as set out in the notice of intentions.
Proposals must address the priorities of both BBSRC and participating NSF/BIO divisions.
You must provide a clear rationale for the need for a US and UK collaboration, including the unique expertise and synergy that the collaborating groups will bring to the project.
The lead agency opportunity does not represent new funding. Proposals will be assessed in competition with all others submitted to the priority areas and agency programs identified in this DCL, and outcomes will be subject to both success in merit review and the availability of funds from both BBSRC and NSF/BIO.
Areas of focus
Proposals relevant to the following priority areas and agency programs are eligible to apply for this opportunity.
Proposals should develop informatics approaches and cyberinfrastructure resources to enable novel and more effective use of data in biological research. Proposals should address important current or emerging challenges faced by researchers, supporting generation of new knowledge from biological data.
Proposals should clearly identify their relevance to one of two biological informatics focus areas, either:
- research to design novel or greatly improved research tools and methods
- the implementation of, scaling of, or major improvements to research tools, products, and services for biology applicable to a wide range of researchers.
Proposals can be in any bioinformatics research area within the remit of both NSF/BIO and BBSRC. Proposals should clearly describe their potential to advance and enable data driven research undertaken by biological research communities primarily supported by both NSF/BIO and BBSRC.
Proposals must be aligned to NSF/BIO’s division of biological infrastructure informatics (innovation) or cyberinfrastructure (capacity) programmes, but not both. Principal investigators are advised to consult the appropriate programme officers of both agencies to ensure that their portion of the project is compliant with the targeted program.
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Systems understanding of host-microbe interaction
Proposals are invited that take an integrative approach to address questions relating to infection and infection-like processes.
These host-microbe interactions, mediated through the immune response, can result in a range of pathogenic and non-pathogenic outcomes for the host, including interactions that could be neutral or beneficial. They may also have phenotypic consequences impacting beyond immune recognition and response, such as the impact of microbiome constituents on nutrient processing and physiological signalling.
More holistic studies of diverse and complex systems of infection biology in plants and animals will identify ways to harness infection biology to solve societal problems. This opportunity encourages studies that propose systems-oriented investigations that shape our understanding of infection and infection-like processes in complex multi-faceted scenarios. This includes, but is not limited to:
- modulation of host-infectious agent interactions in response to varied environmental conditions
- the influence of co-infection and the wider microbiome, both in initial responses and in influencing the dynamics of longer-term interactions
- how changes to host physiology through the life course may alter susceptibility and resilience
- factors that contribute towards fundamental shifts in the nature of infections, such as transitions between commensal, mutualistic and pathogenic outcomes.
Relevant areas of investigation include:
- using genetically similar hosts or microbes that result in different phenotypic outcomes of infection
- the use of comparative cross-species approaches to develop insights that have broad relevance across biological organisms.
Proposals must aim to progress knowledge of immunology in either non-human, non-mouse animals or plants. However, integration of a range of approaches and data across the host-microbe interface to develop new systems-level insights.
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Proposals that focus solely on human or mouse immune systems will not be accepted.
Proposals that focus on industrial applications will not be accepted.
Synthetic cells and cellular systems
Can we design, build and control a synthetic cell or synthetic cellular system? Natural cells emerge from the coordinated operation of a large number of biomolecules with their environment.
One goal of synthetic cell research is to decipher the basic requirements of a living cell by understanding the myriad functions that make it resilient and adaptive. Similarly, synthetic approaches to build multicellular systems may reveal new mechanistic understanding of how both biophysical and biochemical intercellular interactions drive spatial organisation and emergent behaviour within cell populations.
Proposals are expected to focus on building a synthetic cell or cellular system to understand biology.
Synthetic cells might be:
- protocells containing only the most basic cellular components that allow an understanding of the origin of life
- artificial cells that contain both natural and synthetic cellular components
- minimal cells that use natural molecules to build self-replicating cellular entities through ‘bottom up’ approaches.
Synthetic multi-cellular systems would couple engineering at a cellular level to the development of higher order spatially organised structures, through control of cellular interactions, geometries, movement and collective behaviours.
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Proposals focused exclusively on building a synthetic cell as a biomanufacturing platform or as a therapeutic moiety will not be accepted.
Biomedically-focused proposals such as regenerative medicine and tissue engineering will also not be accepted.
Synthetic microbial communities
Microbial communities contain remarkable genetic, physiological and biochemical diversity, allowing them to flourish in environments all over the planet and in a variety of substrates and hosts.
While the means of harnessing individual microbes for biotechnological application are well established, in recent years researchers have begun to explore the wider properties and potential of more complex mixed microbial communities.
The study of natural microbiomes can be hampered by their inherent complexity and an inability to fully map how the functional properties of their constituents combine to deliver a collective phenotype.
Advances in synthetic biology and allied fields are enabling researchers to assemble and engineer synthetic microbial communities from a bottom-up perspective that have novel compositions, genetics and phenotypes.
This offers an alternative to natural microbiomes, allowing researchers to address more precisely fundamental questions about complex microbial communities while also providing routes towards novel bio-based solutions to societal problems.
Proposals are invited to support research that:
- examines the underlying mechanisms or rules that can be used to inform the construction, maintenance and evolution of synthetic microbial communities, considering factors such as:
- cooperative and competitive interactions within communities
- emergent properties within these systems
- examines how to design and control increasing complexity in microbial composition, behaviours and the genetic, metabolic, signalling and physical interactions that occur, as well as how these properties may change within differently spatially structured environments or as process are scaled to enable practical application
- builds complex mixed synthetic communities with novel physiological and metabolic outputs, offering potential bio-based solutions that contribute to tackling global challenges such as:
- production of novel biochemical cycles to enable more circular use of resources in the bioeconomy, biodegradation of recalcitrant or ‘forever’ chemicals’
- development of biorenewable resources that could mitigate our impact on the environment and climate.
All proposals should expand our understanding of biological systems, even if an application is proposed.
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Proposals focused exclusively on biomedical or therapeutic applications will not be accepted.