A new transregional Collaborative Research Center (TRR 359) on the topic of Perinatal Development of Immune Cell Topology (“PILOT”), led by Philipp Henneke, has been awarded funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG).

PILOT aims to break new ground by exploring mechanisms that determine perinatal differentiation of immune cells and their cellular environment. In particular, PILOT will dissect how preprogrammed developmental traits and perinatal exogenous cues integrate to steer immune cell differentiation, establish immune homeostasis and provide efficient immunity to infections. PILOT focuses on analyzing preprogrammed development, the impact of the birth transition and the influence of postnatal cues on immune cell and tissue development. We will study particular subanatomical niches, where structures with discrete functions meet, such as barrier tissues of intestine, lung and skin, and protected sites including the placenta.

Overall, identification and modification of key parameters determining immunity around birth promises unique insights into how the architecture of cellular immunity evolves in adaptation between host and environment on the global level, and microanatomically in the tissue. This will lay the foundation for PILOT’s ultimate goal: steering immunity for a better start and for long-term health.

The new consortium will be led by PILOT’s director, Philipp Henneke (Freiburg), together with deputy director Markus Sperandio (LMU Munich) and Steering Committee members Katrin Kierdorf (Freiburg) and Mathias Hornef (Technical University Aachen). PILOT will be funded by the German Research Foundation with a total of around 12 million Euros from January 1, 2023 for an initial period of four years.

Congratulations Professor Henneke and all those involved in PILOT!