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Interagency Opportunities in Metabolic Engineering

Program Solicitation
NSF 05-502
Replaces Document nsf03516

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National Science Foundation
Directorate for Engineering
      Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Systems
Directorate for Biological Sciences
      Division of Integrative Organismal Biology
      Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
      Division of Chemistry


U.S. Dept. of Energy


Department of Defense


Department of Commerce


U.S. Dept. of Agriculture


National Institutes of Health


Environmental Protection Agency


National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

    January 20, 2005


General Information

Program Title:

Interagency Opportunities in Metabolic Engineering

Synopsis of Program:

This solicitation describes a collaborative effort among the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (National Institutes of Health), and the National Science Foundation. The intent of this interagency solicitation is to provide an opportunity for an interagency granting activity in the area of metabolic engineering (ME). The eight participating agencies or departments are providing research funding and agency in-kind support such as equipment, laboratory space, personnel time, and materials, in support of this solicitation.  

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

  • Frederick G. Heineken, Program Director, Directorate for Engineering, Division of Bioengineering & Environmental Systems, 565 S, telephone: (703) 292-7944, fax: (703) 292-9098, email: fheineke@nsf.gov

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):

  • 47.074 --- Biological Sciences
  • 47.041 --- Engineering
  • 47.049 --- Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Eligibility Information

  • Organization Limit: None Specified.
  • PI Eligibility Limit: None Specified.
  • Limit on Number of Proposals: None Specified.

Award Information

  • Anticipated Type of Award: Standard or Continuing Grant
  • Estimated Number of Awards: 10
  • Anticipated Funding Amount: $6,000,000 The total estimated amount of funding available for interagency ME support is up to $6,000,000 (up to $2,000,000 for FY 2005 NSF support), subject to the availability of funds and quality of proposals. There may be additional in-kind support.

Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions

A. Proposal Preparation Instructions
  • Full Proposal Preparation Instructions: This solicitation contains information that supplements the standard Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) proposal preparation guidelines. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.
B. Budgetary Information
  • Cost Sharing Requirements: Cost Sharing is not required.
  • Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations: None for NSF.  Other participating agencies may have indirect cost limitations.
  • Other Budgetary Limitations: Other budgetary limitations apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.
C. Due Dates
  • Full Proposal Deadline Date(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):
      January 20, 2005

Proposal Review Information

  • Merit Review Criteria: National Science Board approved criteria apply.

Award Administration Information

  • Award Conditions: Additional award conditions apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.
  • Reporting Requirements: Additional reporting requirements apply. Please see the full text of this solicitation for further information.


Summary of Program Requirements

  1. Introduction

  2. Program Description

  3. Eligibility Information

  4. Award Information

  5. Proposal Preparation and Submission Instructions
    1. Proposal Preparation Instructions
    2. Budgetary Information
    3. Due Dates
    4. FastLane Requirements

  6. Proposal Review Information
    1. NSF Proposal Review Process
    2. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard

  7. Award Administration Information
    1. Notification of the Award
    2. Award Conditions
    3. Reporting Requirements

  8. Contacts for Additional Information

  9. Other Programs of Interest


This solicitation describes a collaborative effort among the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (National Institutes of Health), and the National Science Foundation. The intent of this interagency solicitation is to:
  1. Provide an opportunity for an interagency granting activity in the area of metabolic engineering (ME). Eight agencies or departments are to make available up to $6,000,000 from current research funding, and possible additional agency in-kind support such as equipment, laboratory space, personnel time, and materials, in support of this solicitation.

  2. Draw attention to Federal research and development (R&D) interests and opportunities in metabolic engineering, which is coordinated through the Metabolic Engineering Working Group (MEWG). 

In July 1995, the Biotechnology Research Subcommittee (BRS), an Interagency Coordinating Committee under the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), released the report Biotechnology for the 21st Century: New Horizons that identifies research priorities and opportunities in biotechnology. One of the research priorities included the need for a better understanding of metabolic pathways and metabolic engineering in living systems. To stimulate increased awareness and attention to this field, the Subcommittee on Biotechnology established MEWG. Among its various activities, MEWG has held five grant competitions (NSF 98-49, NSF 99-85, NSF 01-19, NSF 02-037, and NSF 03-516). The first competition resulted in 19 proposals with five awards totaling $3,600,000, the second competition resulted in 29 proposals with six awards totaling $3,100,000, the third competition resulted in 13 awards made from 33 proposals totaling $7,500,000, the fourth competition resulted in 11 awards from 47 proposals totaling $7,600,000, and the fifth competition resulted in 10 awards from 41 proposals totaling $5,800,000.  

Participating agencies have varied research interests in metabolic engineering. Information on agency interests can be obtained at: http://www.metabolicengineering.gov/


In order to continue to support a coordinated effort of Federal Metabolic Engineering R&D interests in metabolic engineering (ME), MEWG is calling for research proposals in ME. 

For purposes of this solicitation, ME is defined as follows: An approach to the understanding and utilization of metabolic processes. As the name implies, ME is the targeted and purposeful alteration of metabolic pathways found in an organism in order to better understand and utilize cellular pathways for chemical transformation, energy transduction, and supramolecular assembly. ME typically involves the redirection of cellular activities by the rearrangement of the enzymatic, transport, and regulatory functions of the cell through the use of recombinant DNA and other techniques. Much of this effort has focused on microbial organisms, but important work is being done in cell cultures derived from plants, insects, and animals. Since the success of ME hinges on the ability to change host metabolism, its continued development will depend critically on a far more sophisticated knowledge of metabolism than currently exists. This knowledge includes conceptual and technical approaches necessary to understand the integration and control of genetic, catalytic, and transport processes. While this knowledge will be valuable as fundamental research, per se, it will also provide the underpinning for many applications of immediate value. 

Topic Descriptions

Proposals are invited that address conceptual and technical approaches that further the development and utilization of metabolic engineering.  Four areas are of particular interest:

  • Instrumentation, sensors, new analytical tools, and new experimental methods, which facilitate the study of metabolic pathways, especially those technologies that allow the examination of individual cells.
  • Quantitative and conceptual models integrated with experimental studies that better characterize the regulation and integration of complex, interacting metabolic pathways.
  • The use of bioinformatics to deduce the structure, function, and regulation of major metabolic pathways.
  • The engineering of metabolic pathways to produce novel substances or otherwise address novel problems in understanding or manipulating such pathways.   

This listing is not meant to be all-inclusive, and other areas of research, which could contribute to an expanded understanding of metabolic processes and/or a substantial broadening of their utilization would be welcomed.


The categories of proposers identified in the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG), are eligible to submit proposals under this solicitation. This includes academic and non-profit Institutions, industrial organizations, and Government (Federal, State, and Local) Laboratories. Before submitting a proposal, investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss their idea for a proposal with a member(s) of the MEWG (see Agency Contacts listed in this solicitation).   In particular, those investigators who anticipate Department of Defense (eg. ONR and DARPA) interest in their research ideas should send a two page White Paper to the DOD contact prior to submission of a full proposal. 


The total estimated amount of funding available for interagency ME support is up to $6,000,000  (up to $2,000,000 of FY 2005 NSF support) for approximately 10 awards.  However, agencies have no obligation to provide this amount of support if the quality of the proposals received does not justify such an expenditure, and/or sufficient funds are not available.  There may be additional in-kind support such as equipment, laboratory space, personnel time, and materials from the participating agencies.   


A. Proposal Preparation Instructions

Full Proposal Instructions:

Proposals submitted in response to this program announcement/solicitation should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG). The complete text of the GPG is available electronically on the NSF Website at: http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?gpg. Paper copies of the GPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from pubs@nsf.gov.

To avoid the possible return of a proposal without review, investigators are encouraged to put into the Project Summary the names of at least two participating agencies that have expressed an interest in their proposal.  See Section VI. B for additional information.   

Proposers are reminded to identify the program announcement/solicitation number (05-502) in the program announcement/solicitation block on the proposal Cover Sheet. Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.

B. Budgetary Information

Cost Sharing:

Cost sharing is not required in proposals submitted under this Program Solicitation.

Indirect Cost (F&A) Limitations:

None for NSF.  Other participating agencies may have indirect cost limitations.

Other Budgetary Limitations:

Funding up to $550,000 (total costs for the entire duration of a project, i.e. direct and indirect costs) for single investigator proposals, and up to $1,000,000 for multiple investigator proposals, will be considered. A typical project duration is up to three years.

C. Due Dates

Proposals must be submitted by the following date(s):

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):

    January 20, 2005

D. FastLane Requirements

Proposers are required to prepare and submit all proposals for this announcement/solicitation through the FastLane system. Detailed instructions for proposal preparation and submission via FastLane are available at: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a1/newstan.htm. For FastLane user support, call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail fastlane@nsf.gov. The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. Specific questions related to this program announcement/solicitation should be referred to the NSF program staff contact(s) listed in Section VIII of this announcement/solicitation.

Submission of Electronically Signed Cover Sheets. The Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) must electronically sign the proposal Cover Sheet to submit the required proposal certifications (see Chapter II, Section C of the Grant Proposal Guide for a listing of the certifications). The AOR must provide the required electronic certifications within five working days following the electronic submission of the proposal. Proposers are no longer required to provide a paper copy of the signed Proposal Cover Sheet to NSF. Further instructions regarding this process are available on the FastLane Website at: http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov


A. NSF Proposal Review Process

Reviews of proposals submitted to NSF are solicited from peers with expertise in the substantive area of the proposed research or education project. These reviewers are selected by Program Officers charged with the oversight of the review process. NSF invites the proposer to suggest, at the time of submission, the names of appropriate or inappropriate reviewers. Care is taken to ensure that reviewers have no conflicts with the proposer. Special efforts are made to recruit reviewers from non-academic institutions, minority-serving institutions, or adjacent disciplines to that principally addressed in the proposal.

The National Science Board approved revised criteria for evaluating proposals at its meeting on March 28, 1997 (NSB 97-72). All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two merit review criteria. In some instances, however, NSF will employ additional criteria as required to highlight the specific objectives of certain programs and activities.

On July 8, 2002, the NSF Director issued Important Notice 127, Implementation of new Grant Proposal Guide Requirements Related to the Broader Impacts Criterion. This Important Notice reinforces the importance of addressing both criteria in the preparation and review of all proposals submitted to NSF. NSF continues to strengthen its internal processes to ensure that both of the merit review criteria are addressed when making funding decisions.

In an effort to increase compliance with these requirements, the January 2002 issuance of the GPG incorporated revised proposal preparation guidelines relating to the development of the Project Summary and Project Description. Chapter II of the GPG specifies that Principal Investigators (PIs) must address both merit review criteria in separate statements within the one-page Project Summary. This chapter also reiterates that broader impacts resulting from the proposed project must be addressed in the Project Description and described as an integral part of the narrative.

Effective October 1, 2002, NSF will return without review proposals that do not separately address both merit review criteria within the Project Summary. It is believed that these changes to NSF proposal preparation and processing guidelines will more clearly articulate the importance of broader impacts to NSF-funded projects.

The two National Science Board approved merit review criteria are listed below (see the Grant Proposal Guide Chapter III.A for further information). The criteria include considerations that help define them. These considerations are suggestions and not all will apply to any given proposal. While proposers must address both merit review criteria, reviewers will be asked to address only those considerations that are relevant to the proposal being considered and for which he/she is qualified to make judgments.

What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of the prior work.) To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient access to resources?
What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

For those proposals where NSF has expressed an interest, Principal Investigators should address the following elements in their proposal to provide reviewers with the information necessary to respond fully to both of the above-described NSF merit review criteria. NSF staff will give these elements careful consideration in making funding decisions.

Integration of Research and Education
One of the principal strategies in support of NSF's goals is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects, and activities it supports at academic and research institutions. These institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and students and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the diversity of learning perspectives.
Integrating Diversity into NSF Programs, Projects, and Activities
Broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens -- women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities -- is essential to the health and vitality of science and engineering. NSF is committed to this principle of diversity and deems it central to the programs, projects, and activities it considers and supports.

B. Review Protocol and Associated Customer Service Standard

All proposals are carefully reviewed by at least three other persons outside NSF who are experts in the particular field represented by the proposal. Proposals submitted in response to this announcement/solicitation will be reviewed by Ad Hoc Review followed by Panel Review.

The participating agencies will do an initial review of all proposals to determine agency interest in the proposals.  For those proposals of interest to two or more participating agencies, NSF will be sending out proposals for Ad Hoc Review, and NSF review criteria and forms will be used. A multi-disciplinary panel will also be reviewing these proposals, and is scheduled to meet in the Spring of 2005. Proposals of interest to one agency will be sent to the interested agency.   Proposals of interest to no agency will be returned without review.     

For all proposals reviewed, a summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and signed by each reviewer. In all cases, reviews are treated as confidential documents. The panel will also give each proposal a numerical score reflecting its relative scientific merit. If an award, under this competition, is made by a participating agency other than NSF, that agency may disclose the entire composition of the review panel without revealing individual reviewers of a proposal. Verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers, are sent to the Principal Investigator/Project Director by the Program Director.  Based on the Ad Hoc and Panel Reviews, each participating agency will decide which of the proposals they wish to support The proposer will receive an explanation of the decision to award or decline funding.

NSF is striving to be able to tell proposers whether their proposals have been declined or recommended for funding within six months. The time interval begins on the closing date of an announcement/solicitation, or the date of proposal receipt, whichever is later. The interval ends when the Division Director accepts the Program Officer's recommendation.

In all cases, after programmatic approval has been obtained, the proposals recommended for funding will be forwarded to the Division of Grants and Agreements for review of business, financial, and policy implications and the processing and issuance of a grant or other agreement. Proposers are cautioned that only a Grants and Agreements Officer may make commitments, obligations or awards on behalf of NSF or authorize the expenditure of funds. No commitment on the part of NSF should be inferred from technical or budgetary discussions with a NSF Program Officer. A Principal Investigator or organization that makes financial or personnel commitments in the absence of a grant or cooperative agreement signed by the NSF Grants and Agreements Officer does so at their own risk.


A. Notification of the Award

Notification of the award is made to the submitting organization by a Grants Officer in the Division of Grants and Agreements. Organizations whose proposals are declined will be advised as promptly as possible by the cognizant NSF Program Division administering the program. Verbatim copies of reviews, not including the identity of the reviewer, will be provided automatically to the Principal Investigator. (See section VI.A. for additional information on the review process.)

B. Award Conditions

An NSF award consists of: (1) the award letter, which includes any special provisions applicable to the award and any numbered amendments thereto; (2) the budget, which indicates the amounts, by categories of expense, on which NSF has based its support (or otherwise communicates any specific approvals or disapprovals of proposed expenditures); (3) the proposal referenced in the award letter; (4) the applicable award conditions, such as Grant General Conditions (NSF-GC-1); * or Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Terms and Conditions * and (5) any announcement or other NSF issuance that may be incorporated by reference in the award letter. Cooperative agreement awards also are administered in accordance with NSF Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions (CA-1). Electronic mail notification is the preferred way to transmit NSF awards to organizations that have electronic mail capabilities and have requested such notification from the Division of Grants and Agreements.

*These documents may be accessed electronically on NSF's Website at http://www.nsf.gov/home/grants/grants_gac.htm. Paper copies may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-7827 or by e-mail from pubs@nsf.gov.

More comprehensive information on NSF Award Conditions is contained in the NSF Grant Policy Manual (GPM) Chapter II, available electronically on the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?gpm. The GPM is also for sale through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402. The telephone number at GPO for subscription information is (202) 512-1800. The GPM may be ordered through the GPO Website at http://www.gpo.gov.

Special Award Conditions:

If an award, under this competition, is made by a participating agency other than NSF, the conditions of that award will be made available before the award. 

C. Reporting Requirements

For all multi-year NSF grants (including both standard and continuing grants), the PI must submit an annual project report to the cognizant Program Officer at least 90 days before the end of the current budget period.

For awards from participating Agencies other than NSF, reporting requirements will be provided before the award is activated. 

Within 90 days after the expiration of an award, the PI also is required to submit a final project report. Failure to provide final technical reports delays NSF review and processing of pending proposals for the PI and all Co-PIs. PIs should examine the formats of the required reports in advance to assure availability of required data.

PIs are required to use NSF's electronic project reporting system, available through FastLane, for preparation and submission of annual and final project reports. This system permits electronic submission and updating of project reports, including information on project participants (individual and organizational), activities and findings, publications, and other specific products and contributions. PIs will not be required to re-enter information previously provided, either with a proposal or in earlier updates using the electronic system.


General inquiries regarding this program should be made to:

  • Frederick G. Heineken, Program Director, Directorate for Engineering, Division of Bioengineering & Environmental Systems, 565 S, telephone: (703) 292-7944, fax: (703) 292-9098, email: fheineke@nsf.gov


Additional information may be obtained by contacting: 

Department of Agriculture (USDA) 

Department of Commerce (DOC) 

Department of Defense (DOD) 

Department of Energy (DOE) 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH) 

  • Warren Jones, Phone: (301) 594-5938, jonesw@nigms.nih.gov                       

National Science Foundation (NSF) 

  • Fred Heineken, Bioengineering and Environmental Systems Division
    Phone: (703) 292-7944, fheineke@nsf.gov                                         
  • David Nes, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Division
    Phone: (703) 292-8440, wnes@nsf.gov                    
  • William Winner, Integrative Organismal Biology Division
    Phone: (703) 292-8421, wwinner@nsf.gov

For questions related to the use of FastLane, contact:

  • Marcia Rawlings, Information Technology Specialist, Directorate for Engineering, Division of Bioengineering & Environmental Systems, 565 S, telephone: (703) 292-7956, fax: (703) 292-9098, email: mrawling@nsf.gov


The NSF Guide to Programs is a compilation of funding for research and education in science, mathematics, and engineering. The NSF Guide to Programs is available electronically at http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?gp. General descriptions of NSF programs, research areas, and eligibility information for proposal submission are provided in each chapter.

Many NSF programs offer announcements or solicitations concerning specific proposal requirements. To obtain additional information about these requirements, contact the appropriate NSF program offices. Any changes in NSF's fiscal year programs occurring after press time for the Guide to Programs will be announced in the NSF E-Bulletin, which is updated daily on the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov/home/ebulletin, and in individual program announcements/solicitations. Subscribers can also sign up for NSF's Custom News Service (http://www.nsf.gov/home/cns/start.htm) to be notified of new funding opportunities that become available.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. Awardees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

NSF welcomes proposals from all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to compete fully in its programs. In accordance with Federal statutes, regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF, although some programs may have special requirements that limit eligibility.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities (FASED) provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities (investigators and other staff, including student research assistants) to work on NSF-supported projects. See the GPG Chapter II, Section D.2 for instructions regarding preparation of these types of proposals.


The National Science Foundation promotes and advances scientific progress in the United States by competitively awarding grants and cooperative agreements for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

To get the latest information about program deadlines, to download copies of NSF publications, and to access abstracts of awards, visit the NSF Website at http://www.nsf.gov

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The information requested on proposal forms and project reports is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. The information on proposal forms will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals; project reports submitted by awardees will be used for program evaluation and reporting within the Executive Branch and to Congress. The information requested may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the proposal review process; to applicant institutions/grantees to provide or obtain data regarding the proposal review process, award decisions, or the administration of awards; to government contractors, experts, volunteers and researchers and educators as necessary to complete assigned work; to other government agencies needing information as part of the review process or in order to coordinate programs; and to another Federal agency, court or party in a court or Federal administrative proceeding if the government is a party. Information about Principal Investigators may be added to the Reviewer file and used to select potential candidates to serve as peer reviewers or advisory committee members. See Systems of Records, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 267 (January 5, 1998), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records," 63 Federal Register 268 (January 5, 1998). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of receiving an award.

An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to an information collection unless it displays a valid OMB control number. The OMB control number for this collection is 3145-0058. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 120 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding this burden estimate and any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to: Suzanne Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer, Division of Administrative Services, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA 22230.

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