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Bioengineering Nanotechnology Initiative


1. Research Objectives

Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at this length scale. The purpose of this trans-NIH Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to stimulate Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant applications that employ nanotechnology to enable the development of diagnostics and interventions for treating diseases. 


Advancements in medicine and healthcare are being driven by new developments at the interface of materials technologies and new insights derived from studies of biological processes. Nanotechnology – the ability to engineer systems with defined structure and function on the nanoscale – is in the process of driving a new wave of medical innovation.  This FOA is designed to bring about fundamental changes to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of an array of diseases and traumatic injuries. To that end, the NIH has identified a wide range of research topics that focus on the engineering of nanoscale structures, processes, and systems as well as other technological innovations (data generation, research methods, etc.) to address biomedical challenges.  This list is not exhaustive, nor, are the topics mutually exclusive.  Applicants are also encouraged to consider additional research topic areas of nanotechnology listed under each Institute and Center in the NIH SBIR/STTR Omnibus Solicitation of the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration (

Nanotechnology Research Topics

(1)  Fundamental Nanoscale Phenomena and Processes - Discovery and development of fundamental knowledge pertaining to new phenomena in the physical, biological, and engineering sciences that occur at the nanoscale.  Elucidation of scientific and engineering principles related to nanoscale structures, processes, and mechanisms.  Examples include but are not limited to:

  • nanoscale research on cellular processes, including biophysics of molecular assemblies, membranes, organelles, and macromolecules
  • real-time imaging of subcellular structure, function, properties and metabolism

(2)  Nanomaterials - Research aimed at the discovery of novel nanoscale and nanostructured materials and at a comprehensive understanding of the properties of nanomaterials (ranging across length scales, and including interface interactions).  R&D leading to the ability to design and synthesize, in a controlled manner, nanostructured materials with targeted proprties.  Examples include but are not limited to:

  • synthetic nanoscale building blocks for the formulation of bottom-up approaches to complex and multi-functional nanomaterials, expected to find use in applications towards pharmaceutical delivery, towards the development of contrast and biological agents, multi-functional medical devices, and tissue engineered constructs
  • science of controlling the interface between biomolecular systems and nanoscale synthetic materials, which involves ability to control the interface architecture and transduction of the control signal through this interface
  • nanoparticles that enable controlled release of therapeutic agents, antibodies, genes and vaccines into targeted cells

(3)  Nanoscale Devices and Systems - R&D that applies the principles of nanoscale science and engineering to create novel, or to improve existing, devices and systems.  Includes the incorporation of nanoscale or nanostructured materials to achieve improved performance or new functionality.  The enabling science and technology must be at the nanoscale, but the systems and devices themselves are not restricted to that size.  Examples include but are not limited to:

  • sensor technologies for the detection and analysis of biologically relevant molecular and physical targets in samples from blood, saliva and other body fluids, or for use in the research laboratory (purified samples), clinical specimens, and in the living body
  • molecular and cellular sensing/signaling to detect biological signals and single molecules within and outside cells
  • mechanical, chemical, and cellular implant nano-technologies to achieve functional replacement of tissue architectures and tissue-compatible devices

(4)  Instrumentation Research for Nanotechnology - R&D pertaining to the tools needed to advance nanotechnology research and commercialization, including next-generation instrumentation for characterization, measurement, synthesis, and design of materials, structures, devices and systems.  Research areas include but are not limited to:

  • fundamental principles and tools to measure and image the biological processes of health and disease and methods to assemble nanosystems.
  • bioinformatics for nanotechnology (algorithms and computer software to enable and support all of the above)

(5)  Nanomanufacturing - R&D aimed at enabling scaled-up, reliable, and cost-effective manufacturing of nanoscale materials, structures, devices, and systems.  Includes R&D and integration of ultra-miniaturized top-down processes and increasingly complex bottom-up or self-assembly processes.

(6)  Environment, Health and Safety - Research primarily directed at understanding the environmental, health, and safety impacts of nanotechnology development and corresponding risk assessment, risk management, and methods of risk mitigation.

  • ramifications of nanomaterials processing, use, and degradation on health and the environment

Applicants are encouraged to form strong partnerships between small businesses and other entities to provide the necessary expertise and resources needed.  In this collaboration, partners to the small businesses may play an important role in these projects and may receive appropriate support for their efforts.  It is envisioned that this initiative will bring together multidisciplinary groups of scientists with expertise in areas such as engineering, chemistry, physics, materials science and biology in addition to seeking commercial, academic, and other sectors.

See Section VIII, Other Information - Required Federal Citations, for policies related to this announcement.

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