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Information for Researchers No. 44 | 14 August 2014
Priority Programme “Chemical Biology of Native Nucleic Acid Modifications” (SPP 1784)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the establishment of a new Priority Programme entitled “Chemical Biology of Native Nucleic Acid Modifications” (SPP 1784). The Priority Programme is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

Natural covalent nucleic acid modifications form a new hidden layer of information in the genetic code beyond the classical four letter alphabet. The Priority Programme was established to unravel this code. A network of researchers with backgrounds in chemical biology, structural biology, enzymology and bioinformatics will gain deeper insight into where, how and why native nucleic acid modifications occur and how they influence cellular processes. Prospective participants will address current challenges in detection, localisation, recognition, and function of naturally occurring modifications in RNA and DNA. Modifications as defined in the programme, are specifically introduced to the nucleic acid by cognate enzymes, and do not include chemical lesions, DNA or RNA damages inflicted by light, reactive oxygen species, chemicals, and the like.

Projects to be funded within the frame of the programme need to address scientific questions at the atomic resolution level, using approaches of chemical biology, biochemistry or structural biology in the following areas:

  • new concepts for detection of known modifications, or detection of new modifications
  • localisation of modifications in the genome, transcriptome, or inside the cell
  • target recognition and catalytic turnover of nucleic acids by modification enzymes, and recognition of modified nucleic acids by specific proteins
  • biological function and effect of modifications by specific recognition, changes in coding, or nucleic acid structure

Applications are invited either from single principle investigators, or as tandem grants by two groups, who join forces to tackle a biological problem by strongly interdisciplinary approaches. These may e.g. include one group with a chemical or structural biology background, and another group with background in biology or bioinformatics. Basic biological research, which solely relies on established techniques for high throughput mapping, e.g. by bisulfite sequencing, cannot be funded.

Research proposals for the initial three-year funding period are now invited. All proposals must be written in English. Deadline for proposal submission is 15 December 2014. The proposals will be evaluated by a review panel which is planned to meet in February 2015. The envisaged start of funding is July 2015.

Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic submission system elan, selecting “SPP 1784 Chemical Biology of Native Nucleic Acid Modifications”. If you are using the elan system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional address before being able to submit a proposal. Also, if you are planning to move to a different institution (e.g. with a Temporary Position for Principal Investigators) you need to register the new institutional address beforehand. Please make sure that all applicants of your project (in case there is more than one) start their registration at the latest two weeks before the submission deadline. The registration requests are handled manually by DFG staff.

Please notice the rules for publication lists that have been modified recently: Beside the general bibliography every proposal should include a list of up to ten publications that relate directly to the project. Further the number of publications that may be listed in any academic CV has been increased to up to ten as well. These publications need to be classified as a) refereed publications (published articles and monographs; accepted articles with note of acceptance by the journal) or b) other publications.

Further Information

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

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

More details about the programme can be obtained on the Priority Programme’s website:

For scientific enquiries concerning the scope of the SPP, please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

  • Prof. Dr. Mark Helm,
    Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz,
    Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry,
    Staudingerweg 5,
    55128 Mainz, Germany,
    phone: +4961313925731,
    Fax: +4961313920373,

For information on submitting proposals and related administrative enquiries, please contact: