Researcher biography

Professor Rachel Allavena is a specialist veterinary pathologist, multidisciplinary researcher and Deputy Head of School, at the School of Veterinary Science, Gatton. She develops cancer treatments called immunotherapies which wake up the immune system so it fights the cancer. Her unique approach uses pet dogs with natural cancer to conduct the research. This helps the dog and it's family, as well as progressing the development of veterinary treatments and simultaneously advancing human medicine. As Deputy Head of School she aims to support staff and students to make UQ one of the top school's in Australasia, supporting both pets and people. Rachel is a multi-award winning teacher, lecturinging in veterinary pathology, toxicology, animal welfare and laboratory animal science. Her specialist expertise is nationally and internationally recognised in forensics, animal cruelty and toxicology where she acts as an expert witness in criminal and civil legal cases. She is a strong advocate for racing animal welfare, investigating racing animal injury and deaths and conducting research on how to improve animal welfare in sport, society and research. 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, commercial and community TV and radio. In 2022-2023 she is a 'Flying Scientist' for Queensland's Office of the Chief Scientist. Rachel 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.

Prof Allavena has a PhD in Comparative Medicine from Cornell Univesity in New York, and undertook her pathology specialistation at Ontario Veterinary College. She has worked in drug safety research and development in the pharmaceutical industry in preclinical safety testing and discovery research in the United Kingdom. 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. Further, she has extensive research in drivers of koala population decline 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. 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. She has an extensive successful track record of training anatomic pathologists for American College of Veterinary Pathology board certification. 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.