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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 69 | 23. Oktober 2015
Priority Programme “Innate Lymphoid Cells” (SPP 1937)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established the Priority Programme “Innate Lymphoid Cells” (SPP 1937) which is intended to run for six years. This call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

During the past six years, novel types of innate lymphocytes have been discovered in mice and man that are now collectively referred to as innate lymphoid cells (ILC). The family of ILC currently comprises four major subsets: NK cells and three subsets of tissue-resident helper-like ILC (ILC1, ILC2 and ILC3) that display distinct transcriptional and functional programmes. This unexpected heterogeneity of ILC, which is reminiscent of the different types of T cells, points to an entirely novel level of complexity within lymphoid cell lineages. The existence of the ILC family raises new fundamental questions in immunology with profound ramifications for immunity to infections and for the pathogenesis of inflammation-driven diseases. Furthermore, ILC appear to have important functions beyond those traditionally associated with the immune system. Thus, ILC are involved in organ homeostasis, epithelial regeneration and repair and regulate lipid and glucose metabolism.

The Priority Programme aims to establish an interdisciplinary research programme that comprehensively investigates the newly discovered family of ILC in mouse models and humans. It is the aim of the programme to provide novel insights into ILC as guardians of tissue homeostasis and repair, in the defense against infections and in the pathogenesis of inflammation-driven diseases.

The programme intends to bring together immunologists, microbiologists, and clinical scientists such as gastroenterologists and dermatologists as well as scientists interested in epithelial cell biology and experts in key technologies to accomplish these goals. Proposals submitted to this call should address the following fundamental aspects:

  • Signals and molecular mechanisms controlling ILC differentiation, homeostasis, effector functions and adaptive properties of ILC
  • Key issues here will be (1) to define transcription factors, epigenetic landscape and ILC-intrinsic molecules driving development and differentiation of ILC; (2) to analyse the interaction of ILC with non-hematopoietic and hematopoietic cells and their effects on ILC development, function and maintenance; (3) to identify strategies of immune recognition in ILC; (4) to investigate adaptive traits of ILC (e.g., “ILC memory”, role of Rag proteins for ILC fitness, etc.); (5) to study the conservation of ILC in evolution.
  • ILC in tissue homeostasis and immunity
  • Key issues here will be (1) to probe the role of ILC in organ homeostasis and tissue renewal; (2) to analyse ILC in the defense against infections; (3) to interrogate the role of ILC in inflammatory diseases and in inflammation-driven diseases.
  • Developing cutting-edge tools and protocols for a rigorous analysis of ILC biology
  • Key issues here will be (1) to develop and validate methods to visualise the specific localisation of ILC in situ, their in vivo behaviour and their network of interactions using imaging technologies such as Multi-Epitope-Ligand-Cartography (MELC) and intravital multi-photon microscopy; (2) to develop genetic tools for the specific and selective ablation/manipulation of ILC subsets; (3) to design and establish tailored staining panels for the flexible and more exhaustive characterisation of ILC in differentiation, phenotype and function using CyTOF.
  • Interdisciplinary projects, e.g. in the context of joint applications of two principle investigators are encouraged, in particular for projects concerning the role of ILC in organ homeostasis and those aimed at the development and application of customised technology.

Not eligible for funding within the Priority Programme are proposals on:

  • mechanisms that are only operative in NK cells but not in other ILC subsets (e.g., acquisition of the KIR/Ly49 receptor repertoire, NK cell education or “licensing”, etc.)
  • work related to innate-like T cells (e.g., gd T cells, iNKT cells, MAIT cells, etc.)
  • interactions between ILC and microbial communities
  • pure sequencing efforts without any biological question
  • descriptive or clinical studies aimed at the definition of biomarkers without seeking mechanistic understanding

Research proposals for the first three-year funding period, to be written in English, are now invited. Prior to submission, all questions should be addressed to the coordinator of the programme (diefenbach@uni-mainz.de). All proposals should follow the guidelines in DFG forms 50.05 (Priority Programmes, Part B) and 54.01 (Project Proposals). Please include a title page with your name, institution, and the title of your project in your application. The deadline for proposal submission is 15 February 2016.

Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic submission system “elan”, selecting “SPP 1937”. If you are using the “elan” system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional addresses before being able to submit a proposal. If you are planning to move to a different institution (e.g. with a temporary position for Principal Investigators) you need to register with the address of the new institution.

A colloquium for evaluation of all proposals is scheduled for 31 May and 1 June 2016 in Bonn. The envisaged start of funding is end-2016.

Further information

The DFG’s electronic portal “elan” can be found at:

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in the DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01, which can be found on the DFG’s website at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

  • Professor Dr. Andreas Diefenbach,
    Research Centre of Immunology and Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene,
    University of Mainz Medical Centre,
    Obere Zahlbacher Straße 67,
    55131 Mainz,
    phone: +49 6131 17-9363,

Further instructions on submitting a proposal are supplied by the DFG:

For scientific matters:

For administrative matters:

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