NIH – Collaborative Approaches to Engineer Biology for Cancer Applications (U01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

October 29, 2020 by


This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) invites applications to develop and apply innovative synthetic biology approaches to address challenges across the spectrum of cancer research. Projects will be required to apply a technology, based on an engineered biological system, to an important and well-defined cancer research question. Collaborative transdisciplinary teams are expected with PIs representing expertise in cancer research, engineering, and other disciplines relevant to synthetic biology.


Technological developments in cellular and molecular engineering and computational methods have spurred new engineering approaches and advanced capacity to reengineer biology to address important cancer research questions. These approaches, termed synthetic biology, focus on the design, construction, and characterization of improved or novel biological systems using engineering design principles. Expanding beyond traditional genetic engineering methods, which are often concentrated on individual genes and proteins, synthetic biology adopts a more systematic approach targeting entire pathways, networks, and whole organisms with quantitative control and modulation.

The holistic approach is a natural complement to systems biology, with synthetic biology tools suited to test predictive models and computational/mathematical modeling needed to predict behavior of engineered systems to inform the design.

Technical and research capabilities include memory circuits to track and report single cell exposures and lineage, biosensors to detect and report disease and treatment response markers, feedback-controlled circuits to deliver defined therapeutic outputs, and a range of other possibilities. While the technology has developed at a rapid pace, the overall application to cancer research has been limited. To enhance this promising research area, the FOA intends to promote collaborations between engineers and cancer researchers to develop innovative synthetic biology approaches to challenges across cancer research.

Key Dates:

Open Date (Earliest Submission Date): December 15, 2020
Letter of Intent Due Date(s): 30 days before application due date

Due Date(s): January 15, 2021

Scientific Merit Review: April/May 2021
Earliest Start Date: October 2021

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Filed Under: Funding Opportunities