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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 53 | 5. Juli 2019
Priority Programme “Exit Strategies of Intracellular Pathogens” (SPP 2225)

In March 2019, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Exit Strategies of Intracellular Pathogens” (SPP 2225). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

In the course of infection, many bacterial, fungal and protozoan pathogens pass through a life-cycle phase during which they parasitise host cells, typically enclosed by membranous vacuoles. While the intracellular life-style provides shelter to these microbes, they eventually need to exit the enveloping cell to ensure life-cycle progression and dissemination. Host cell exit follows an orchestrated and temporally defined programme that relies on the dynamic interplay between host and microbial factors. Three distinct pathways of host cell exit have been postulated, which appear to have convergently evolved among the otherwise highly diverse groups of pathogens: (1) the initiation of programmed cell death; (2) the active lytic destruction of the host cell; (3) the membrane-dependent exit without host cell lysis. Molecules involved in the exit process are essential for microbial survival and progression of the infection and thus represent important antimicrobial targets.

The Priority Programme aims at exploring the spectrum of convergently evolved exit pathways employed by bacterial, parasitic and fungal pathogens with relevance for human health. Considered exit types include exit from the host cell, exit from vacuolar compartment as a prerequisite of host cell exit, and exit from a pathogen-containing cyst. It is the goal of the Priority Programme to dissect the molecular mechanisms that trigger, regulate, mediate, and synchronise the exit programme, and to unveil the link between exit strategy and disease pathogenesis.

Projects to be considered for funding shall address at least one of the following aspects:

  • the sequential steps of pathogen-specific host cell exit pathways
  • the link between exit pathway and host cell specificity
  • the endogenous and environmental triggers of host cell exit
  • the signalling pathways mediating host cell exit
  • the key molecular mediators, regulators and effectors of host cell exit
  • the cross-taxa conservation and species-specific variation of host cell exit

Technical tools to address these questions shall include combinations of high-end imaging techniques, global analyses based on transcriptomics, proteomics and lipidomics, modern genetics methodologies, like genome editing, and BioID or other molecular interaction detection technologies.

The following topics cannot be considered for funding within the framework of the programme:

  • projects studying viral or solely veterinary-relevant infection models
  • projects pursuing descriptive approaches without investigating mechanisms

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 15 January 2020. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. To enter a new project within the existing Priority Programme, go to Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 2225” from the current list of calls.

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 through elan, please send an electronic copy to the programme coordinator.

Applicants without an existing elan-account 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 8 January 2020 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally 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.

The proposals will be evaluated during a review colloquium currently planned for May 2020. All project principle investigators will be invited to present their proposals in short talks and discuss them with the international review panel. The exact date and location of this colloquium will be announced in due course.

Further Information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

The Priority Programme coordination office can be contacted at:

For scientific enquiries, please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

  • Prof. Dr. Gabriele Pradel,
    Division of Cellular and Applied Infection Biology,
    Institute of Biology 2,
    RWTH Aachen University,
    Worringerweg 1,
    52074 Aachen,
    phone +49 241 8020848,
    Link auf E-Mailpradel@bio2.rwth-aachen.de

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact:

Administrative contact:


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