Seed Grants for Synthetic Biology Research at USC

The USC Dornsife Center for Synthetic Living Systems was founded in 2022 with the goal of bringing together diverse researchers interested in building life. Towards this goal, the Center will be offering up to nine $20,000 seed grants over the next two years for innovative, new research in synthetic biology, broadly defined. Proposals can be directed at building life at any scale (e.g., electrons, macromolecules, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, communities), for example by using synthetic biology to answer fundamental questions about the design principles of life, to develop new technologies, or to solve specific real-world challenges.

The Center presently includes 13 faculty from Dornsife, Keck, and Viterbi with diverse interests associated with synthetic biology. One of the aims of this call is to identify additional faculty aligned with the Center’s objectives.

Proposal Guidelines

Each proposal should be 1.5- to 2-pages long containing a clear description of the proposed research, including the potential impact, aims, team, budget, and a list of target announcements for larger, long-term funding. Proposals are due by January 15th, 2024 and should be submitted to Ian Ehrenreich ( If you have questions about whether your proposal fits with the Center’s objectives, please contact us.

Eligibility Requirements

Each team of researchers must involve at least two PIs with at least one having a primary appointment in Dornsife. Tenured, tenure-track, and research faculty are eligible to serve as PIs. Requests can include student or postdoc support, or materials and supplies, but should not include faculty salary. At least 50% of the planned funding should be spent in Dornsife investigator laboratories. Funded researchers will be expected to participate in Center events.