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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 72 | 14. Oktober 2020
Priority Programme “Physics of Parasitism” (SPP 2332)

In spring 2020, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Physics of Parasitism” (SPP 2332). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

Parasitism is a close and antagonistic relationship between two different species. Traditionally, parasitology was concerned mainly with organismic studies, while today’s parasitology focuses on medically-relevant cellular and molecular mechanisms. The Priority Programme defines a new frontier in parasitology, namely the physics and mechanics of parasites interacting with their hosts. This interaction is controlled by the anatomy of the parasites, the physics of their locomotion (e.g. swimming or crawling), and the mechanics of their attachment to host structures. Parasitism has evolved many times and hence, there are numerous and often convergent solutions to the challenge of how to physically hijack a host. These long periods of co-evolution have equipped parasites with high degrees of optimality. Examples are extremely adapted parasitic tools such as suckers and shields, or refined locomotive devices that allow navigation and attachment in various body fluids, in crowded and confined spaces, and in highly viscous environments. The Priority Programme aims to establish a comparative and quantitative framework of the physical constraints and mechanical forces acting at the dynamic parasite-host interfaces.

The Priority Programme has a clear focus on the application of concepts and methods from physics to understand the general foundations underlying parasitism. Both projects from single groups and collaborative projects are welcome. Projects to be considered for funding shall address at least one of the following aspects:

  • the anatomy and mechanical properties of parasites
  • the physics of interaction of parasites with their microenvironments
  • parasitic locomotion in natural and nature-inspired microenvironments
  • the mechanics of parasites attachment to host structures

To achieve these goals, the Priority Programme brings together parasitologists, cell biologists, and tissue engineers with physicists, mathematicians and computational scientists. Thus, the technical tools used shall include high-end combinations of state-of-the-art biological, biophysical and physical tools, as well as simulation methods and artificial intelligence.

The following topics will not be considered for funding in the framework of the programme:

  • projects that focus on non-eukaryotic pathogens
  • projects that are solely based on genetics, structural biology, engineering, or veterinary and medical parasitology

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 19 May 2021.

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 2332/1” from the current list of calls.

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 4 May 2021 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.

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.

Please be aware that all CVs need to be prepared in English as well. Further, compliance with DFG’s rules for publication lists (form 1.91) is expected.

In addition to submitting your proposal through elan, please send an electronic copy to the programme coordinator.

Up to now, it is planned, that all submitted proposals will be evaluated by a review panel in the course of a colloquium with oral project presentations, which is anticipated to take place in Würzburg in the first full week of September 2021. All principal investigators will receive formal invitations in due course.

The envisaged start of funding is the end of 2021/early 2022.

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 coordinator:

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:


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