Two Centre for Advanced Molecular Imaging (Imaging CoE) PhD students, Ms. Holly Ung and Mr. Blake Mazzitelli, completed a three-month Research Placement at Fraunhofer IZI-BB in Potsdam, Germany. Both researchers studied and implemented Fraunhofer IZI-BB’s optimized system for Cell-Free Protein Synthesis (CFPS).

The research placements mark a significant milestone in the partnership between Monash University and the ARC Imaging CoE with Fraunhofer IZI-BB in which a previously untapped pipeline of protein-synthesis to molecular imaging analysis can be achieved with enhanced efficiency.

As part of our commitment to fostering the next generation of scientist, the research placements offered the students an opportunity for international exposure and allowed them to gain invaluable insights into the German approach to applied research.. Ms Ung and Mr Mazzitelli are the first students to participate in the program and they have shared their experience with us:


“Honed in on previous ones, and came away with connections that we would not have built outside of this program. We see this placement as being hugely beneficial to our careers in biomedical science,” Mr Mazzitelli said.

While the CFPS technology has existed previously in various forms the Department of Cell-free and Cell-based Bioproduction at Fraunhofer IZI-BB has spent many years optimizing the system for the generation of disease-related human proteins. Many of these proteins are typically unable to be generated in cell-based systems and, indeed, many commercial CFPS systems.

Pictured left: Blake Mazzitelli




“This was an incredible learning experience. My two supervisors were inspiring women who are currently pioneering the development of this powerful technology. Their invaluable words of encouragement and support have given me the independence and confidence to contribute to the scientific community in this exciting era where there are emerging women leaders,” Ms Ung said.

Pictured left: Holly Ung


“As scientists at the Imaging CoE, our goal is to obtain a detailed understanding of the mechanisms by which various proteins function, as well as the molecular events that allow these proteins to cause diseases such as autoimmune disease and cancer,” Mr Mazzitelli said.

“A significant bottleneck to our research is the difficulty in expressing many of these disease-related proteins for further studies. CFPS, therefore, presents as a promising technique to overcome these difficulties.”

As such, the goal of this research placement was to test some of their most difficult-to-express proteins in the Fraunhofer IZI-BB CFPS system. Throughout this placement, Ms Ung and Mr Mazzitelli were given a first-hand look at the powerful capabilities of CFPS. They were able to synthesize various proteins otherwise unable to be generated in traditional systems, as well as confirm the functionality of these proteins by harnessing the impressive infrastructure and machinery housed at Fraunhofer IZI-BB.

This work will allow various projects to push forward to the molecular imaging stage, primarily undertaken at our state-of-the-art facilities at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Centre, including the Monash Micro Imaging (MMI) platform, FEI Titan Krios and the Australian Synchrotron.

In addition to breaking down scientific barriers, this experience was incredibly beneficial to their professional development. To be able to integrate into a new research group with novel techniques provided tremendous perspective into biomedical science outside of their own laboratories.

The Imaging CoE would like to thank Dr Stefan Kubick, Head of the Department of Cell-free and Cell-based Bioproduction at Fraunhofer IZI-BB, and his team for hosting Ms Ung and Mr Mazzitelli for their three months placement