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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 87 | 29. November 2018
Priority Programme “Innate Sensing and Restriction of Retroviruses” (SPP 1923)

In March 2015, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Innate Sensing and Restriction of Retroviruses” (SPP 1923). The programme was launched in 2016 and is intended to run for six years. This call invites proposals for the second 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 several of the following 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 second three-year funding period are now invited. The deadline for proposal submission is 4 March 2019.

Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 25 February 2019 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will typically receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

To submit a proposal for a new project within the existing Priority Programme, please go to Proposal Submission – New Project – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 1923” from the current list of calls. Previous applicants can submit a proposal for the renewal of an existing project under Proposal Submission – Proposal Overview/Renewal Proposal. Please include a title page with your name, institution, and the title of your project in your application.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal. In addition to submitting your proposal via elan, please send an electronic copy to the programme coordinator.

A one-day colloquium for evaluation of all proposals will be scheduled for the week of 3 June 2019 in Heidelberg.

Further Information

More information on SPP 1923 is available under:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

  • Prof. Dr. Oliver T. Fackler,
    Heidelberg University Hospital,
    Department of Infectious Diseases,
    Integrative Virology,
    Center for Integrative Infectious Disease Research,
    INF 344, 69120 Heidelberg,
    phone +49 6221 56-1322,
    Link auf E-Mailoliver.fackler@med.uni-heidelberg.de

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact:

Administrative contact:


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