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Information for Researchers No. 48 | 22 July 2020
Priority Programme “New Concepts in Prokaryotic Virus-host Interactions – From Single Cells to Microbial Communities” (SPP 2330)

In spring 2020, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the establishment of a new Priority Programme entitled “New Concepts in Prokaryotic Virus-host Interactions – From Single Cells to Microbial Communities” (SPP 2330). The Priority Programme is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

Viruses that prey on bacteria and archaea represent the most abundant biological entities on this planet. Over the last century, research using bacteriophages (viruses infecting bacteria) was the primary driving force in deciphering the molecular basis for life. In recent years, revolutionary discoveries on the biology of prokaryotic viruses opened up completely new horizons in phage research. These include the findings that viruses can use small molecules to make group-level decisions, the discovery of intracellular molecular complexes made by viruses that blur the boundary between prokaryotic and eukaryotic life, and the multitude of novel anti-viral immune systems acting at the unicellular and multicellular level. This impressively demonstrates the gigantic blind spots in our current understanding of the biology of prokaryotic viruses, which were revealed by studying viruses that are not traditionally perceived as model systems, and by the application of modern technologies that have been developed after the first intense period of phage research decades ago.

The goal of this Priority Programme is to open up new horizons and opportunities for discovering fundamentally new concepts and mechanisms in biology by focusing on three scales of complexity of viral organisation: viral cell biology, new unicellular and multicellular anti-viral defences, and viral impact on microbial communities.

Projects to be funded have to address one of the following aspects with a special emphasis on the discovery of new concepts and mechanisms in prokaryotic virus-host interaction:

  • Cellular organisation and regulation of the viral infection cycle, such as elucidation of key factors (proteins, RNAs or small molecules) involved in the spatiotemporal control of the viral infection cycle, viral communication and compartmentalisation.
  • Novel anti-viral defence systems (beyond CRISPR) in prokaryotes acting at the unicellular and multicellular levels as well as their interaction and complementation.
  • Viral impact on microbial communities, interaction with biofilms, co-evolutionary dynamics, and prokaryotic virus-host networks.

Achieving the goals of this Priority Programme requires an interdisciplinary cooperation of researchers in molecular microbiology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, mathematical modelling, imaging techniques, as well as structural biology. To promote collaborations and conceptual coherence of this programme, projects should ideally meet the following criteria (if appropriate):

  • Focus on prokaryotic viruses featuring a fully functional life cycle; this criterion excludes work on the diverse forms of domesticated/cryptic prophages or gene transfer agents.
  • Hypothesis-driven research aiming at a mechanistic/molecular understanding of virus-host interactions; projects must not exclusively focus on phage therapy or perform descriptive studies on new isolates of prokaryotic viruses.
  • Projects on anti-viral strategies must focus on new defence systems (no mechanistic studies on CRISPR) or focus on an integrated view of the interaction between different defence systems.
  • Projects focusing on tool development or metagenomics analysis need to be combined with experimental/mechanistic work for further functional analysis.
  • In case of cellular studies or studies on phage defence mechanisms, an appropriate phage-host system should already have been established (preferably with a genetically tractable host).

Proposals must be submitted in English via the DFG’s electronic submission system “elan” selecting “SPP 2330/1 – Virus-host” from the current list of calls.

If you are using the “elan” system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional addresses 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) have registered by 23 November 2020, two weeks before the submission deadline.

The registration requests are handled manually by DFG staff within two working days.

Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

Please notice the DFG rules for publications lists: In addition to the general bibliography, each proposal should contain a list of up to ten publications directly related to the project. Furthermore, the CVs can list up to ten publications which do not necessarily have to document preliminary work for the project. 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.

Potential applicants are kindly asked to send a summary of the intended project (applicant(s), preliminary title, plus a maximum of 15 lines of text) no later than 1 September 2020 by e-mail to the coordinator (contact see below). To allow for mutual information and coordination among applicants, these short summaries will be compiled and made available to all applicants by the coordinator.

Proposals must be submitted by 7 December 2020 at the latest.

It is planned to evaluate all proposals by a review panel in March 2021. All applicants will be informed in due course.

The envisaged start of funding is late summer 2021.

Further Information

The elan system can be accessed at:

Proposal guidelines, preparation instructions, the DFG rules for publication lists and the current project description for your proposal are outlined in the DFG forms 50.05, 54.01, 1.91 and 53.01, which can be found either in elan or on the DFG’s website at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

  • Prof. Dr. Julia Frunzke,
    Institute of Bio- and Geosciences,
    Forschungszentrum Jülich,
    52425 Jülich, Germany,
    phone +49 2461 615430,
    Link auf E-Mailj.frunzke@fz-juelich.de

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact:

Administrative contact:


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