The Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (ISN/CTR) is pleased to announce an open competition for assistance awards through this Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).
BEP addresses several BW-related proliferation challenges. First, government, academic, and private sector research entities conducting advanced microbiology, toxicology, and genomic research and/or deploying biotechnologies, as well as physical and digital biorepositories, have expertise, access to, or house BW-applicable materials, equipment, data, tools, and information that is vulnerable to exploitation by state or non-state actors seeking to advance BW efforts continues to increase every year. The pandemic has led to an increased number of laboratories worldwide, and without proper security measures and training, these laboratories and their staff are vulnerable to exploitation. Laboratories and researchers around the world continue to be approached by malign actors seeking research collaboration or investment opportunities.
Additionally, the frequency of cyber-attacks has steadily increased worldwide, and malicious exploitation of cyber vulnerabilities of life sciences infrastructure could result in data and research theft and negatively impact the safe and secure operations of laboratories housing high consequence pathogens. Furthermore, rapid advancements in synthetic biology and the abundant availability of related research publications are lowering the technical threshold to modify genetic material, and enabling dangerous types of research which could result in modified pathogens with increased transmissibility, survivability, ability to evade detection, or other BW-applicable modifications.
- Enhance partners’ risk assessment capacity to identify and mitigate biosecurity gaps in laboratories and bio- and data repositories. BEP programs will build risk assessment capacity by training foreign partners in risk assessment methodologies, developing and deploying risk assessment tools, and implementing small grants to immediately mitigate biosecurity gaps found during risk assessments.
- Engage the synthetic biology, toxicology, and genomic research communities to build institutional mechanisms to ensure safe, secure, and responsible conduct of these life sciences. BEP programs will strengthen security of synthetic biology, toxicology, and genomic research and related data by raising awareness of proliferation threats associated with this research, training partners on due diligence practices to review prospective research partnerships (e.g., know-your-collaborator), and establishing comprehensive systems for research oversight at the institutional and national levels.
- Establish national control measures for bio- and genomic data security, including policies with oversight, enforcement, and/or reporting mechanisms. BEP programs will help partners to establish national level bio- and genomic data security policy and guidance, pathogen control measures such as select agent lists, and oversight and enforcement capacity for these frameworks.
- Promote bio-risk management (BRM) certification internationally. BEP programs will support foreign partners from across all regions to be trained on BRM and to take internationally recognized certification exams or similar forms of professional development.
- Prevent cybersecurity threats in biological laboratories, including facilities handling genomic data or relying on laboratory automation, by decreasing vulnerabilities and promoting adoption of effective risk mitigation options. BEP programs will train laboratory staff, IT managers, procurement managers, and laboratory decision makers on cybersecurity threats and risks within biological laboratories to protect sensitive biological research, data, databases, and laboratory facilities and equipment against illicit or unauthorized access, theft, tampering, or other forms of misuse. BEP programs will also support cyber hygiene training to promote security best practices.
- Increase partnership with professional associations to sustainably develop and disseminate biosecurity, research security, and know-your-collaborator guidelines and best practices. BEP programs will engage national and regional biosafety associations and related consortium to train members on biosecurity, research security, and know your-collaborator best practices; develop curriculum and other resources on these topics; and deploy these associations to raise awareness and train biological communities across their countries and regions.
- Support the UNSGM’s ability to investigate possible BW use. BEP programs will engage foreign partners to increase technical capacity and participation in the UNSGM.
- Enhance security culture within DIY biology, community labs, cloud labs, and similar communities. BEP programs will engage partners in the DIY biology, community labs, cloud labs, and similar communities to raise awareness of dual use research issues in the life sciences, and to encourage self-governance in these communities.
- Deny non-state actors the expertise, materials, and equipment necessary to conduct biological attacks. BEP programs, in a small number of selected countries, will train on insider threats and responsible research in the life sciences, enhance capacity to secure and safely handle high consequence pathogens, and assist partners with development of human reliability programs.
- Length of performance period: 12 months
- Number of awards anticipated: 25 (dependent on amounts)
- Award amounts: ISN/CTR prefers projects that cost less than $250,000
- Total available funding: $15,000,000
- Anticipated program start date: October 1, 2024
- Program Performance Period: Proposed projects should be completed in 12 months or less.
- While global in scope, BEP focuses its resources on countries facing the greatest threats from proliferator states or non-state actors with the reasonable potential (e.g., absorptive capacity, diplomatic willingness, etc.) to successfully implement WMD threat reduction activities. Priority countries may include but are not limited to Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, DRC, Gabon, Georgia, Guinea, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Türkiye, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Participants and Audiences
- BEP will support projects that engage foreign government organizations, national security agencies, biological research and biotechnology laboratories, central and regional health and agriculture laboratories, bio- and data repositories, universities, science and technology organizations or academies, biosafety associations or similar professional associations, and private industry. Within these organizations, BEP projects will engage government leadership, laboratory managers, technicians and similar staff, data and IT managers, research scientists, epidemiologists, policy makers, first responders, forensic scientists, academic researchers and administration, professors, students, and DIY communities.
- Eligible Applicants
- The following organizations are eligible to apply:
- Not-for-profit organizations, including think tanks and civil society/non-governmental organizations
- Public and private educational institutions
- Federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs)
- For-profit organizations Public International Organizations and
- Governmental institutions
- The following organizations are eligible to apply:
- Cost Sharing or Matching
- Cost sharing is not required and will play no role in when the project is being evaluated.
For more information, visit Grants.gov.