Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 94 | 6. November 2023

Priority Programme “Physics of Parasitism” (SPP 2332)

In 2020, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Physics of Parasitism” (SPP 2332). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

Parasitism is a close and antagonistic relationship between two different species. Traditionally, parasitology was concerned mainly with organismic studies, while today’s parasitology focuses on medically-relevant cellular and molecular mechanisms. The Priority Programme defines a new frontier in parasitology, namely the physics and mechanics of parasites interacting with their hosts. This interaction is controlled by the anatomy of the parasites, the physics of their locomotion (e.g. swimming or crawling) and the mechanics of their attachment to host structures. Parasitism has evolved many times and hence, there are numerous and often convergent solutions to the challenge of how to physically hijack a host. These long periods of co-evolution have equipped parasites with high degrees of optimality. Examples are extremely adapted parasitic tools such as suckers and shields, or refined locomotive devices that allow navigation and attachment in various body fluids, in crowded and confined spaces, and in highly viscous environments. The Priority Programme aims to establish a comparative and quantitative framework of the physical constraints and mechanical forces acting at the dynamic parasite-host interfaces.

The Priority Programme has a clear focus on the application of concepts and methods from physics to understand the general foundations underlying parasitism. Both projects from single groups and collaborative projects are welcome. Projects to be considered for funding should address at least one of the following aspects:

  • The anatomy and mechanical properties of parasites
  • The physics of interaction of parasites with their microenvironments
  • Parasitic locomotion in natural and nature-inspired microenvironments
  • The mechanics of parasites attachment to host structures

To achieve these goals, the Priority Programme brings together parasitologists, cell biologists and tissue engineers with physicists, mathematicians and computational scientists. Thus, the technical tools used should include high-end combinations of state-of-the-art biological, biophysical and physical tools as well as simulation methods and artificial intelligence.

The following topics will not be considered for funding in the framework of the programme:

  • Projects that focus on non-eukaryotic pathogens
  • Projects that are solely based on genetics, structural biology, engineering or veterinary and medical parasitology

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 8 May 2024. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 24 April 2024 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process. 

Applicants who already have an elan account are requested to check their data in elan. If necessary, you can update your data directly in the portal. It is not necessary to register again.

If you would like to submit a proposal for a new project within the existing Priority Programme, please go to Proposal Submission – New Project – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 2332” from the current list of calls.

Previous applicants can submit a proposal for the renewal of an existing project under Proposal Submission – Proposal Overview/Renewal Proposal.

Please note that you need to select your previous project first from the proposal overview in order to get access to submit a renewal proposal. Only then the already existing project data (e.g. title, duration) are preset, but can be changed if necessary. The aforementioned SPP selection does not apply because your project is already linked to the SPP.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (DFG form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (DFG form 54.01). 

Please note that only project proposals can be accepted that follow the current DFG templates and their specifications: 

  • For your project description, DFG form 53.01 applies for both new and renewal proposals.
  • For all CVs incl. publication lists, DFG form 53.200 is mandatory.

These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal. 

At present, the plan is for all submitted proposals to be evaluated by a review panel in the course of a colloquium with oral project presentations/poster sessions which is anticipated to take place at the University of Würzburg in September 2024.

All principal investigators will receive further information in due course.

The envisaged start of funding is early 2025.

The DFG strongly welcomes proposals from researchers of all genders and sexual identities, from different ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological or social backgrounds, from different career stages, types of universities and research institutions, and with disabilities or chronic illness.

Further Information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

For scientific enquiries, please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

  • Professor Dr. Markus Engstler
    Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
    Biozentrum der Universität Würzburg
    Lehrstuhl für Zell- und Entwicklungsbiologie (Zoologie I)
    Am Hubland
    97074 Würzburg
    phone +49 931 31 80060

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05, 54.01, 53.01, 53.200 and 1.91 can be downloaded at:

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

For Programme questions, please contact:

For administrative and elan queries, please contact:

DFG’s data protection notice on research funding:

Please note the DFG’s data protection notice on research funding. If necessary, please also forward this information to those individuals whose data will be processed by the DFG due to their involvement in your project: