Information for Researchers, No. 9 | April 17, 2024

New Major Instrumentation Initiative: Clinical Hyperpolarisers for Advanced Metabolic Magnetic Resonance Imaging

With this call, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) launches a new Major Instrumentation Initiative that invites proposals for the provision of Clinical Hyperpolarisers for metabolic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at German universities in order to explore the scientific potential of this technology in medical imaging research.

Real-time visualisation and quantification of metabolic processes are crucial in diseases as they can improve diagnosis and risk stratification, and enable more effective and personalised treatment strategies based on very early assessment of response. While MRI offers a broad variety of imaging approaches, the accessible information in clinical practice is limited by the intrinsically limited sensitivity of magnetic resonance in the Boltzmann equilibrium distribution of spin states. In favourable conditions, hyperpolarisation can dramatically increase the signal (theoretically by several orders of magnitude). In physical chemistry, hyperpolarisation is already exploited, albeit on small analytical samples. Related instrumentation for dynamic nuclear polarisation nuclear magnetic resonance (DNP-NMR) was the subject of the DFG major instrumentation initiative 2011. At present, the production and application of hyperpolarised MRI probes in a clinical setting has become feasible, turning conventional MRI into a powerful metabolic imaging tool applicable to a multitude of impactful clinical applications in oncology, cardiology, neurology and more.

The main objective of this call is to explore the potential of commercially available hyperpolarisation instrumentation for research in metabolic MRI. Hyperpolarisers of a different kind (e.g. both the DNP and the PHIP approach) are eligible, but they need to have clearance for clinical imaging. Proposals may include, if necessary, the adaption of available clinical MRI scanners for hyperpolarised imaging (e.g. dedicated coils), but this may only constitute a small fraction of the total costs, since the subject of the call is the hyperpolarisation device. The availability of state-of-the-art MRI facilities with sufficient available personnel supporting metabolic imaging research is a prerequisite. Since a high degree of utilisation of the hyperpolariser is expected, availability of measurement time at suitable MRI scanners needs to be explained in the proposal.

Major Instrumentation Initiatives address universities as applicant institutions. A proposal must be adequately supported by institutional infrastructure and a corresponding institutional concept (cf. proposal template 53.101). The university must appoint a responsible spokesperson for the proposal (only one spokesperson is possible) who, in the event of approval, will be responsible for coordinating the efficient operation and successful use of the hyperpolariser for metabolic imaging research. Proposals must demonstrate the scientific and technical expertise necessary for the successful operation of the equipment and for the proposed research making use of it. Current and planned research projects that will benefit from the availability of a hyperpolariser should be concisely described; however, funding necessary for the actual scientific research in metabolic imaging is not within the scope of this call.

In addition to the use of the equipment for the projects outlined in the proposal, depending on availability, time must be open to external research groups, who may have to contribute to the operating costs (of both the hyperpolariser and the MRI) accordingly. It should be explained in the proposal how the operation and use of the equipment is to be managed in a scientifically and methodologically efficient manner. In the event of funding, corresponding rules for the operation of and access to the equipment must be submitted to the DFG.

The applicant university is responsible for providing adequate support for operation and maintenance. In addition to suitable space and necessary staff for the basic operation of the instrumentation, a guarantee to cover the expected operating, maintenance and other follow-up costs has to be provided. The confirmation of this support, in the form of a statement by the university, should be enclosed along with the proposal (in a separate document). Nevertheless, it is possible to apply (as part of the proposal) for staff and direct costs dedicated to the specific aims of this Major Instrumentation Initiative for a period of up to five years, e.g. for establishing work flows, optimising pulse sequences, validation and calibration work, and/or for supporting external users. Funding for workshops and public relations related to metabolic imaging research based on the hyperpolariser can also be requested. 

Universities interested in submitting a proposal are encouraged to send a non-binding letter of intent by e-mail to by 14 March 2024, with the subject “Major Instrumentation Initiative 2024 LOI [university]”. The letter must contain the name of the prospective responsible spokesperson and a non-binding list of the groups who will be involved in the proposal, as well as the intended fields of application. Please also list relevant collaboration partners to help us identify possible conflicts of interest.

Proposal Submission

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 4 June 2024. 

Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. To submit a proposal in response to this call, go to “Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Scientific Instrumentation and Information Technology – Major Instrumentation Initiative“, and select “Clinical Hyperpolarisers for metabolic MRI” from the current list of calls.

Proposals must be prepared using the project description template (DFG form 53.101) and following the programme guidelines (DFG form 21.7, Section I and III). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal.

All documents need to be in English, the DFG’s guidelines for preparing publication lists (DFG form 1.91, version 2022) apply.

The spokesperson must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you are using the elan portal for the first time, please note that you must set up an elan account by 28 May 2024 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time may not be processed in time for proposal submission.

Further information

E-mail to send the non-binding letter of intent:

DFG form 21.7 Guidelines Major Instrumentation Initiative [08/23] (German or English):

DFG form 53.101 Project Description - Major Instrumentation Initiative call [09/22] (English only):

Further Information on the programme and on other Major Instrumentation Initiatives

Contact person at the DFG Head Office in Bonn, Germany:

Dr. Christian Renner
Telephone: +49 (228) 885-2324