Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Core Programs (MCB)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

MCB supports research that promises to uncover the fundamental properties of living systems across atomic, molecular, subcellular, and cellular scales. The program gives high priority to projects that advance mechanistic understanding of the structure, function, and evolution of molecular, subcellular, and cellular systems, especially research that aims at quantitative and predictive knowledge of complex behavior and emergent properties. MCB encourages research exploring new concepts in molecular and cellular biology, while incorporating insights and approaches from other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics, to illuminate principles that govern life at the molecular and cellular level. MCB also encourages research that exploits experimental and theoretical approaches and utilizes a diverse spectrum of model and non-model animals, plants, and microbes across the tree of life. Proposals that pursue potentially transformative ideas are welcome, even if these entail higher risk.

This solicitation calls for proposals in research areas supported by the four MCB core clusters, including: (i) structure, dynamics, and function of biomolecules and supramolecular assemblies, especially under physiological conditions (Molecular Biophysics); (ii) organization, processing, expression, regulation, and evolution of genetic and epigenetic information (Genetic Mechanisms); (iii) cellular structure, properties, and function across broad spatiotemporal scales (Cellular Dynamics and Function); and (iv) systems and/or synthetic biology to study complex interactions through modeling or manipulation or design of living systems at the molecular-to-cellular scale (Systems and Synthetic Biology). All MCB clusters prioritize projects that integrate across scales, investigate molecular and cellular evolution, synergize experimental research with computational or mathematical modeling, and/or develop innovative, broadly applicable methods and technologies. Projects that bridge the intellectual edges between MCB clusters are welcome. Projects that integrate molecular and cellular biosciences with other subdisciplines of biology are also welcome through the new Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) track.

All programs in the Directorate for Biological Sciences strive to achieve key goals laid out in the NSF Strategic Plan. Among these goals are: (i) to empower Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talent to fully participate in science and engineering; (ii) to enable creation of new knowledge by advancing the frontiers of research and enhancing research capability; and (iii) to benefit society through translation of knowledge into solutions. In line with these goals, MCB welcomes the submission of proposals to this funding opportunity that include the participation of the full spectrum of diverse talent in STEM, e.g., as PI, co-PI, senior personnel, postdoctoral scholars, graduate or undergraduate students or trainees.  This includes historically under-represented or underserved populations, diverse institutions including Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs), and two-year colleges, as well as major research institutions. Proposals from EPSCoR jurisdictions are especially encouraged. MCB has a new track in this solicitation, EXPAND MCB in EPSCoR, that welcomes proposals that build capacity through collaborations led by organizations in EPSCoR jurisdictions.

Also aligned with the NSF Strategic Plan, MCB encourages submission of proposals in support of discovery-based explorations, as well as use-inspired, solutions-focused research, including proposals that address priority areas associated with building a resilient planet and biotechnology and the bioeconomy. Some examples of topics that address priority areas associated with building a resilient planet and biotechnology and the bioeconomy can be found in the life on a warming planet and bioeconomy metaprogram descriptions. The CHIPs Act of 2022 and the Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe and Secure American Bioeconomy highlight the importance of these two areas with respect to safeguarding national security and promoting prosperity. MCB also strongly encourages proposals that leverage NSF resources to facilitate integration across the biological sciences, such as the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), data networks, synthesis centers, and institutes.

Regarding health-related challenges, NSF supports basic research in all areas of the biological sciences and recognizes that this foundational research is likely to impact many different areas, including human health. MCB celebrates all the biological science discoveries funded through MCB awards that have had major impacts on health, environment, energy, food production, and other applications. Nevertheless, research focused exclusively on understanding human diseases and their treatment is normally outside of the scope of funding and will be returned without review unless that research significantly advances other fields such as engineering, computer science, or the mathematical and physical sciences.

Full Proposal Accepted Anytime

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations located in the U.S. that are directly associated with educational or research activities.

Amount Description

Estimated Number of Awards: 120

Anticipated Funding Amount: $110,000,000

$110M will be committed for the total budget of all new awards in each fiscal year.

Funding Type





Environmental & Life Sciences
Medical - Basic Science