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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 59 | 1. September 2015
Priority Programme “Innate Sensing and Restriction of Retroviruses” (SPP 1923)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established the Priority Programme “Innate Sensing and Restriction of Retroviruses” (SPP 1923) which is intended to run for six years. This call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

Retroviruses comprise a diverse group of exogenous and endogenous viruses defined by their unique replication strategy to reverse-transcribe their RNA genome into a complementary DNA. Millions of years of coevolution with their mammalian hosts gave rise to highly pathogenic as well as apathogenic members of this family of viruses and to species-specific differences in their pathologic potential. Evidence is emerging that cell-type specific cell-autonomous components of the innate immune system, including specialised pattern recognition receptors and broadly active antiviral restriction factors, represent key determinants of the fundamentally different outcomes of retroviral infections. However, the specific host cell machineries involved in recognising retroviral infection, viral evasion strategies thereof, and their relative contribution to retroviral pathogenesis in specific target cells and organs remain to be defined. This Priority Programme thus aims at the identification of the full molecular sensing and restriction machinery involved in cell-autonomous immunity against retroviruses, its regulation, virus-encoded countermeasures, and pathophysiological consequences. An important aspect of the programme will also be to visualise innate immune recognition events, assess their dynamics and define the stoichiometry of key components involved. SPP 1923 will integrate retrovirologists, immunologists, and experts in key technologies to accomplish these goals.

Proposals submitted to this call should address the following fundamental aspects:

  • identity and regulation of host cell machinery mediating innate immune recognition of retroviruses
  • retroviral components recognised by the host cell innate immune system
  • specificity and potency of innate anti- or pro-retroviral immune responses
  • retroviral countermeasures and evasion strategies of innate immune recognition
  • evolution of retroviral innate immune recognition and antagonism thereof
  • development and application of customised enabling technology for visualisation and quantification of innate immune recognition, including quantification of key host and virus components involved

Retroviruses to be studied include pathogenic exogenous orthoretroviruses (HIV, SIV, HTLV, MLV), spumaretroviruses (Foamy viruses) as well as endogenous retroviruses and retroviral elements. Pathogenic and apathogenic retroviruses will be investigated in cell systems ranging from monotypic cell cultures to complex ex vivo and animal models. Interdisciplinarity of projects, e.g. in the context of joint applications of two principle investigators is encouraged, in particular for projects aimed at the development and application of customised enabling technology.

Not eligible for funding with SPP 1923 are proposals on:

  • basic aspects of innate immunity against pathogens other than retroviruses
  • well-established restrictions to retroviral replication that are not linked to innate sensing/signaling
  • descriptive or clinical studies aimed at the definition of biomarkers without seeking mechanistic understanding

Research proposals for the first three-year funding period, to be written in English, are now invited. All proposals should follow the guidelines in DFG forms 50.05 (Priority Programmes, Part B) and 54.01 (Project Proposals). Please include a title page with your name, institution, and the title of your project in your application. The deadline for proposal submission is January 12, 2016.

Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic submission system “elan”, selecting “SPP 1923”. 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. If you are planning to move to a different institution (e.g. with a Temporary Position for Principal Investigators) you need to register with the address of the new institution. Please make sure that all applicants are registered until December 21, 2015, as registration requests must be handled manually by DFG staff.

A colloquium for evaluation of all proposals is scheduled for April 13-14, 2016 in Bonn. The envisaged start of funding is mid-2016.

Further information

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

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

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

Further instructions on submitting a proposal are supplied by the DFG:

For scientific matters:

For administrative matters: