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NSF, NIH partner on new research to develop RNA-based methods for biotech innovations

Collage of images showing agriculture, human lungs and other images suggesting biotech research

Researchers will explore RNA's roles and actions.

February 28, 2024

Nine NSF-supported teams will seek new understanding of the inner functions and potential uses of intricate RNA molecules found within all living cells.

The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded over $12.7 million across nine research teams to understand better the untapped capabilities of ribonucleic acid (RNA) for potentially far-reaching biotechnology applications, from disease prevention in crops to cancer-fighting therapies. The nine teams will each receive $1 million to $1.65 million from NSF through the Molecular Foundations for Biotechnology (MFB) program, a joint effort of NSF in partnership with the National Institutes of Health's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). NHGRI plans to invest in additional projects to be announced later in 2024, which will focus on the development of novel technologies to investigate RNA biology.

"Innovative new modes of inquiry into the molecular-level structure, dynamics and function of RNA is expected to lead to significant biotech breakthroughs at the intersection of chemistry and biology," says NSF's Chemistry Division Director David Berkowitz. "By advancing this fundamental science, we open the door to new avenues of use-inspired research and applications that can benefit society and improve our quality of life."

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The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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