International research partnership to accelerate impact of Australian discoveries


(L-R): Professor Hans-Ulrich Demuth (Director, Fraunhofer IZI-BB), Professor Frank Emmrich (Director, Fraunhofer IZI) and Professor Ian Smith (Vice-Provost for Research & Research Infrastructure, Monash University) sign an agreement between the institutions, formalising the collaboration, on 30 June 2017 in Melbourne.

A collaborative research partnership in molecular imaging and immunology between Monash University and the German Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology is set to solve industry-oriented research problems and have a significant impact on people’s lives.

In close collaboration, Monash University and two Fraunhofer institutes – the Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (Leipzig) and its branch for Bioanalytics and Bioprocesses (Potsdam) – intend to develop fundamental scientific discoveries to a point where they are attractive to potential industry partners.

Utilising the complementary strengths of each institution, the partnership will focus on translational outcomes to accelerate the development of novel therapeutics, imaging technologies, and diagnostic devices to better treat diseases such as cancer and other immune-associated disorders.

Monash University Vice-Provost for Research & Research Infrastructure Professor Ian Smith said he was pleased to announce that the joint Monash-Fraunhofer team had already been successful in securing a grant of up to €650,000 from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Over five years this grant will provide funding for three collaborative pilot projects.

Professor Ian Smith – an advocate for a multi-disciplinary, collaborative and industry-involved approach to complex research – said the partnership with Fraunhofer would enable the University to better translate its discoveries, ensuring they reached their full potential and had maximum impact.

“The German Fraunhofer model is seen worldwide as an example of best practice in getting innovation from universities out into industry and also enabling these inventions and discoveries to have real impact,” Professor Smith said.

“We envisage this partnership as the first of several joint initiatives between Fraunhofer and Australian institutions.”

Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging at Monash, Professor James Whisstock, said with the inevitability that most people will suffer from immune-related diseases during their lifetime, this international collaboration had the potential to result in life-changing therapies.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can achieve by combining our strength and capabilities to improve the human condition,” Professor Whisstock said.

Fraunhofer IZI Director Professor Frank Emmrich said he was excited about tapping into the exceptional biomedical research capabilities at Monash University and helping to translate and promote Australian research on a global scale.

“I am convinced that our cooperation will enable numerous synergies, accelerating the development of innovative technologies on both sites,” Professor Emmrich said.

Monash’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Global Engagement), Professor Abid Khan, whose office supported the creation of this initiative, sees the newly formed partnership with Fraunhofer as an important mechanism to leverage international networks of research excellence.

“Australia and Europe share strong ties in innovation and research with complementing strengths, for example in physics, biology, chemistry and clinical medicine,” Professor Khan said.

“Our partners recognise the discovery and research strengths that exist in Australia and the potential for a greater Fraunhofer presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Likewise, in Australia we are committed to extending and strengthening individual, institutional and bilateral linkages to European partners across academia, research and industry.”

Head of Science and Innovation at the German Embassy in Australia, Dr Judith Reinhard, said the international collaboration would also have the benefit of strengthening relationships between the German and Australian research communities and respective industries.

“The link between high-end research and industry partners in this bilateral initiative is extremely exciting from our point of view,” Dr Reinhard said.  

“This new partnership will deepen and strengthen the German-Australian scientific relations in the long term.”

About the institutes

Monash University & the Centre for Advance Molecular Imaging

Monash is a world-leading research university that has made significant investments in biological research, and is now ranked in the Top 100 universities in the world. This major research strength is underpinned by our continued investment in core strategic research infrastructure, placing Monash at the forefront of technology development and at the cutting-edge of Australia’s scientific discoveries. The ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging is a fine example of Monash’s interdisciplinary approach to complex research questions and is a leading light for the application of our finest scientific minds and most advanced technologies to the complex problems of immunity. Monash has recognized that a key to quantum advances in the biological sciences is the creation of greater capacity for imaging biological events in vivo and in vitro. Accordingly, Monash has invested heavily both in generating technology platforms that underpin advanced molecular imaging, and in recruiting and nurturing scientists who can use such technology to address key biological questions. Our technological focus includes the development and management of state-of-the-art research platforms in structural biology (atomic imaging), and cryo-EM (molecular imaging) and applying these approaches to unravel the fundamental basis of key immune recognition events.

Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI)

The world-class Fraunhofer network comprises 69 Fraunhofer institutes, each focusing on different fields of applied science, and more than 24,000 employees. The Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI investigates and develops solutions to specific problems at the interfaces of medicine, life sciences and engineering. One of the institute's main tasks is to conduct contract research for companies, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and research institutes operating in the field of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical engineering. The Fraunhofer IZI develops, optimises and validates methods, materials and products for the business units Cell and Gene Therapy, Drugs, Diagnostics and Biosystems Technology. Its areas of competence lie in cell biology, immunology, drug biochemistry, biomarker, bioanalytics and bioproduction as well as process development and automation. In these areas, research specifically focuses on the indications oncology, neuropathology, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as well as infectious diseases and regenerative medicine. The institute works in close cooperation with hospital institutions and performs quality tests besides carrying out the GMP-compliant manufacture of clinical test samples. Furthermore, it helps partners obtain manufacturing licenses and permits.