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Information for Researchers No. 70 | 12 December 2014
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 established the Priority Programme entitled “Chemoselective Reactions for the Synthesis and Application of Functional Proteins” (SPP 1623). The Priority Programme was initiated in 2011 and is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the second 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 Programme was established to address current challenges in methodology development as well as applications of established chemoselective or bioorthogonal methods for the investigation of functional proteins in biological processes.

Projects to be funded within the second funding period of the programme should include method developments with particular emphasis on novel robust chemoselective or 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
  • synthesis, application and functional analysis 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 within the second funding period should yield semisynthetic proteins that need to be applied to biochemical investigations on signal transduction processes, DNA packaging, DNA-protein interactions and the effects of PTMs 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 peptide synthesis or 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 can be found on the webpage. Interested participants should contact the coordinator Professor Dr. Christian Hackenberger.

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

Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic submission system “elan”, selecting “SPP 1623 – Chemoselective Reactions in Functional Protein Synthesis”. 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:

  • Professor Dr. Christian Hackenberger,
    Leibniz Institute of Molecular Pharmacology (FMP),
    Robert-Rössle-Straße 10,
    13125 Berlin,
    phone: +493094793181,
    Link auf E-Mailhackenbe@fmp-berlin.de

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