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Information for Researchers No. 41 | 31 August 2011
Priority Programme “Chemoselective Reactions for the Synthesis and Application of Functional Proteins” (SPP 1623)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the establishment of a new Priority Programme entitled “Chemoselective Reactions for the Synthesis and Application of Functional Proteins” (SPP 1623). The Priority Programme is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

Covalent protein modifications are considered as key biological elements, by which cellular processes are organised and maintained. Consequently, several researchers in the field of chemical biology focus on chemical strategies to obtain site-specifically modified proteins to overcome intrinsic limitations of standard biological techniques. These chemical strategies enable functional analyses of proteins on a molecular and cellular level and even biomedical applications in the long-run. The Priority Programm was established to address current challenges in methodology development as well as applications of established bioorthogonal methods for the investigation of biological processes.

Projects to be funded within the frame of the programme need to include method developments with particular emphasis on novel robust bioorthogonal ligation methods that allow the synthesis of new functional proteins:

  • convergent strategies for proteins with multiple modifications, in particular the combination of several bioorthogonal modification and ligation methods

  • enhanced suppression techniques enabling the recombinant incorporation of one or more chemical functions into proteins that facilitate downstream chemical modifications

  • applications of synthetic site-specifically modified proteins, in particular new protocols for their application in living cells; strongly encouraged are the implementation of new cell systems, for example plant cells, which have not been used in this approach so far

  • synthesis (and application) of biologically relevant site-specifically modified proteins generated by new bioconjugation techniques for therapeutic or diagnostic applications

New functional proteins as defined by the programme are:

  • proteins containing natural protein modifications (glycosylation, phosphorylation, etc.) that cannot be accessed by conventional molecular biology techniques

  • proteins containing unnatural protein modifications that enable functional analyses of the protein’s biochemistry or allow controlling the protein’s biological activities

Newly developed ligation and modification techniques should yield semisynthetic proteins that allow biochemical investigations on signal transduction processes, DNA packaging, DNA-protein interactions and the effects of glycosylation on structure and function of proteins.

Method developments customised to specific biological or pharmaceutical problems are explicitly encouraged. To this end the Priority Programme accepts tandem projects in addition to single grant applications. Applications for tandem grants are submitted by two groups with chemical and biochemical backgrounds who join forces to tackle a biological problem with bioorthogonal ligation and modification techniques. Basic biological research, which does not rely on bioorthogonal ligation or modification techniques, cannot be funded. Projects engaged in the recombinant incorporation of non-natural amino acids can only be funded if they are strongly connected to a chemical challenge.

More information on the thematic focus of the Priority Programme 1623 will be provided during an information and network meeting hosted by the Freie Universität Berlin on the 20 October 2011. In addition this meeting aims to provide a communication platform for interested participants from biological or chemical backgrounds in the preparatory phase of the grant applications. Interested participants should contact the coordinator Prof. Dr. Christian Hackenberger. Additional information about the venue, schedule and registration can be found on the programme’s website (www.spp1623.de).

Research proposals for the initial three-year funding period are now invited. All proposals must be written in English and be prepared according to the guidelines for individual research grants (1.02/1.02e, available at the DFG website). Please include one paper copy and one CD-ROM copy (containing proposal and all attachments as pdf). They should be marked “SPP 1623” and addressed to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn. Deadline for proposal submission is 15 January 2012. Please note that proposals still have to be submitted by postal mail.

The proposals will be evaluated by a review panel which is planned to meet in April 2012. The envisaged start of funding is July 2012.

Further information

For further information please refer to:

DFG’s forms and guidelines are available under:

Scientific questions about this Priority Programme should be directed to its coordinator:

Administrative questions, notably about the formal eligibility for participation and the submission of the proposal, should be directed to: