Researcher biography

Professor Rachel Allavena is a multidisciplinary researcher with a major interest in research and teaching pathology, toxicology and laboratory animal science. She is the Deputy Head of School, at the School of Veterinary Science Gatton. She is well recognised for her research contributions in cancer treatment using pet dogs with natural cancer to develop new immunotherapies, and the conservation of Queensland's koala population. She is a board certified veterinary anatomic pathologist with the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) and a registered specialist veterinary anatomic pathologist with the Veterinary Surgeon's board of Queensland through the Australian Veterinary Boards Council. She is the lead diagnostic anatomic pathologist in the UQ School of Veterinary Science Veterinary Laboratory Service, and in her professional capacity she oversees cases for Racing Queensland, Queensland Police and RSPCA Queensland, with a special interest in animal welfare and forensic pathology.

Dr Allavena has a PhD in Comparative Medicine from Cornell Univesity in New York. She has worked in drug safety research and development in the pharmaceutical industry in preclinical safety testing and discovery research. Her research interests are strongly focused on comparative and translational medicine and animal model validation and development in rodents, dogs and other laboratory animal species. Her major research projects include developing novel cancer immunotherapics and diagnostics for pet dogs naturally suffering from cancer both as a veterinary therapy and comparative model for human cancer. She was co-principal investigator in the KoalaBASE project investigating the causes driving the decline of koala populations in SEQLD. She has wide ranging research collaborations specialising in the pathological assessment and study design for animal models in a variety of areas including novel therapeutics, drug safety, toxicology and natural envenomations, biometallic implants, and animal welfare in laboratory animals and domestic species.

Dr Allavena has a major interest in graduate student and pathology trainee mentorship. She currently supervises HDR students and pathology trainees preparing the American College of Veterinary Pathologists board examination, Training to date 8 boarded specialists. She teaches into the undergraduate BSc, BVSc, and BVetTech courses for pathology, laboratory animal science, animal welfare and toxicology. She was awarded a Faculty of Science Teaching Excellence Award in 2015 and a UQ Citation for outstanding contributions to student learning in 2021. She has served as an office holder in the Pathobiology chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists and the Australian Society of Veterinary Pathologists.

Prof Allavena has an active media profile and has been featured in national and international media including The Conversation, ABC national and regional radio and TV news, The Veterinarian magazine, and UQ News. Dr Allavena really enjoys doing presentations to school students and teachers as well as public outreach events to promote science to the general public. She has presented a TEDx talk on how dogs can help us cure cancer.