Department of Army Center for Synthetic Biology

Funding Agency:
Department of Defense

The Army Center for Synthetic Biology is a basic research program initiated by the Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM)/Army Research Laboratory (ARL)/Army Research Office (ARO). It focuses on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security. It seeks to increase the Army's intellectual capital in synthetic biology and improve its ability to address future challenges. The Army Center for Synthetic Biology brings together universities, research institutions, companies, and individual scholars and supports multidisciplinary and cross-institutional projects addressing specific topic areas determined by the Department of the Army (DA). The Army Center for Synthetic Biology aims to promote research in specific areas of synthetic biology and to promote a candid and constructive relationship between the Army Science and Technology (S&T) enterprise and the synthetic biology research community.

Strong collaborations between DA and academia are necessary to overcome challenges associated with achieving the desired goals. Tackling these will require a large comprehensive cooperative effort (while also allowing for exploratory efforts for high-risk concepts) with a teamed approach involving multiple researchers collaborating across separate disciplines. Listed below are knowledge gaps and basic research opportunities which are to be addressed by the Army Center for Synthetic Biology. These are discussed in further detail as the Technical Thrust Areas in Section II.A.2.

a. Predictive Design of Engineered Biological Materials

b. Predictive Design of Engineered Cellular Systems in Defined Environments

Proposals will be considered under one of two funding areas. The first funding area will support two awards to large, team-oriented efforts (Team), with one award in support of each Technical Thrust Area. It is anticipated the Team awards may include several sub-awards to multiple institutions or organizations because the necessary expertise in addressing the numerous facets of the topics may reside within different organizations. The second funding area is for multiple single investigator awards (Seedling). The Team and Seedling awards will collaborate and cooperate among themselves and with DEVCOM ARL and other organizations within the Army S&T Enterprise. Proposals submitted for either funding area (Team or Seedling) must include a teaming and collaboration plan that describes how collaboration, cooperation, and communication will be accomplished among proposing team members, other Team and Seedling awardees under the Army Center for Synthetic Biology, and researchers within DEVCOM ARL and other organizations within the Army S&T Enterprise.

The main objective of this BAA is to solicit basic research ideas to promote discovery and innovation that enable the rapid and effective exploration and validation of novel synthetic biology systems. This BAA focuses on basic research across a wide range of disciplines including synthetic biology, biochemistry, chemistry, machine learning/artificial intelligence, materials science, and engineering. This BAA focuses on basic research as defined at 32 CFR 22.105.

There are two funding areas in this announcement which are referred to as Team and Seedling. A submitted proposal may only apply to one funding area. A proposer may submit to both areas but not with the same proposal. Proposals submitted to the Team funding area must comprehensively address one of the Technical Thrust areas listed under Section II.A.2 of this document. Proposals submitted to the Seedling funding area must address elements of one of the Technical Thrust areas listed in Section II.A.2 of this document. Additional information on the scope of the two funding areas is listed below.

The application process under this BAA consists of a Whitepaper stage and a Proposal stage. The purpose of this two-step approach is to facilitate pre-screening by the U.S. Government such that detailed proposals are only sought from applicants whose whitepapers demonstrate the most promise for award (this also helps to reduce unnecessary proposal preparation efforts). The Government’s decision to invite a Proposal will be based upon the evaluation results of a timely and compliant Whitepaper submission. Only the most highly rated Whitepapers will receive an invitation from the Government to submit a Proposal. An Applicant that does NOT submit a timely and compliant whitepaper, is NOT eligible to submit a Proposal for consideration for funding. An Applicant that does NOT receive an invitation from the Government to submit a Proposal is NOT eligible to submit a Proposal.

Whitepapers Due:

  • Funding Area One (Team): 01 February 2021
  • Funding Area Two (Seedling): 01 February 2021, 01 February 2022, 01 February 2023, 01 February 2024

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Eligible applicants under this BAA include institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and for-profit organizations (i.e. large and small businesses) in the United States or its territories. Whitepapers and proposals will be evaluated only if they are for fundamental scientific study and experimentation directed toward advancing the scientific state of the art or increasing basic knowledge and understanding. Whitepapers and proposals focused on specific devices or components are beyond the scope of this BAA. More than one whitepaper and/or proposal is allowable from any single institution or organization.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

February 1, 2022