Professor Ala Tabor

Professorial Research Fellow

Centre for Animal Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

Affiliate Principal Research Fellow

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science
a.lewtabor@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 62176

Overview

Prof Ala Tabor joined QAAFI's Centre for Animal Science in October 2010, after 18 years of conducting research with the Queensland Government. She is a research focussed academic with a strong background in industry engagement associated with animal health. Her research interests are associated with the application of genomic sequence data to improve animal disease management through: 1) the development of molecular diagnostic and genotyping methods to better identify pathogens; and 2) the study of gene function in relation to virulence and host pathogenicity of infectious diseases, to develop new effective vaccines. Areas studied to date include bovine reproductive diseases (in particular bovine genital campylobacteriosis), Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus), cattle tick (Rhipicephalus microplus species complex), and tick-borne diseases (babesiosis and anaplasmosis). Some key outputs of her work include the application of reverse vaccinology for the development of a novel cattle tick vaccine and paralysis tick vaccine (patents pending), and commercialized diagnostic tools for bovine reproductive diseases. Prof Tabor has attained and completed ~$12 million in competitive grants in the last 10 years including the ARC, pharma and industry. Current research includes paralysis tick vaccines/treatments, bovine biomarkers for disease resistance, cattle tick commercial vaccine trials, bioinformatics/genomics of ticks and bovine venereal Campylobacter spp., tick fever genotyping/detection, and diagnostic assay development for bovine genital campylobacteriosis. Her international recognition in her field is exemplified by the invitation to join the BMGF International Cattle Tick Vaccine Consortium (CATVAC, est. 2015), specialist tick editor for the International Journal for Parasitology, Chair for the 9th International Tick and Tick-borne Pathogen (TTP9) conference (with the 1st Asia-Pacific Rickettsia Conference) held for the first time in Australia in 2017, and also international invitations to deliver expert presentations. Her research vision is to translate her research outcomes into viable products and methods for the benefit of cattle producers and pet owners. There are many options for students to pursue Honours, research components of Masters in Biotechnology or Masters in Molecular Biology (through affiliation with SCMB), as well as MPhil and/or PhD programs with Ala's group. Ala has also had a strong focus on diversity, inclusion and gender equity initiatives at the University of Queensland.

Research Impacts

Ala's research is translationally driven by developing vaccines, diagnostic tests and genotyping assays to better manage the health of livestock and companion pets. Globally there are approximately 1.46b cattle, of which 80% in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world are at risk from ticks (Rhipicephalus microplus species complex) and the diseases they carry (anaplasmosis and babesiosis) with estimated annual losses of $US22b-$US30b (Lew-Tabor & Rodriguez Valle 2016). Australia is one the largest exporters of cattle in the world (~$1.3m p.a.) with 60% of these exports originating from northern Australia. In Australia, cattle tick and tick borne diseases cost ~$175m per year in losses. Reproductive wastage also has a high economic impact on cattle production in northern Australia with the cost of losses due to infectious diseases difficult to determine due to the lack of specific diagnostic tests. The Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) affects ~100,000 livestock and 10,000 companion animals per year in Australia, as well as humans.

Ala is currently collaborating with industry towards the commercialisation of 2 very different anti-tick vaccines - the cattle tick and the Australian paralysis tick - 3 patents under review. Cattle tick research (genomics - reverse vaccinology approach) commenced in 2005 and proof of concept trials have shown excellent results. This ~$5m investment since 2005 has been a large collaboration with Qld Department of Agriculture & Fisheries, Murdoch University's Centre for Comparative Genomics and the US Department of Agriculture. Ala has developed molecular assays for the diagnosis of bovine venereal disease (McMillen and Lew, 2006) commercialised into a kit by Applied Biosystems™ (Life Technologies; VetMAX™T.foetus Reagents #4415221) in 2011. Her research team developed a novel bovine venereal disease sampling tool Tricamper™ which is sold by the Qld Department of Agriculture & Fisheries since 2006 (~3,500 sold p.a.). Several assays she and her research teams have developed are in use by veterinary diagnostic laboratories including: bovine tick fever pathogens (anaplasmosis and babesiosis) – monitoring of live vaccine stocks and the investigation of outbreaks including exported cattle in New Caledonia (Lew et al 1998; Lew et al 2002; Bing et al 2016); Bovine venereal/reproductive diseases tests; Screw worm fly quarantine preparedness (this fly species would bring in excess of $100m in losses to Australian livestock if introduced) (Jarrett et al. 2010).

The recognition of her research into cattle tick vaccines led to the invitation to join the International Tick Vaccine Consortium (CATVAC) to deliver tick vaccines into Africa (Morocco, July 2015; concept paper (Schetters et al. 2016)​ and a member of an International Consortium awarded the International ‘Tick and tick-borne Pathogen Award for Significant Contribution for the Field: Genome sequencing of the cattle tick, Rhipicephalus microplus’ at the 8th International Tick and Tick-Borne Pathogen Conference in 2014. She has been invited to present at several international meetings associated with ticks and vaccines including Kenya, Brazil and the UK. Ala was the Chair of the 9th International Tick and Tick-borne Pathogen Conference (TTP9) which was held with the Inaugural Asia-Pacific Rickettsia Conference in 2017 - for the first time in Australia. The outputs of the conference has led to 2 Special Issues with 2 different journals with Prof Tabor as a Guest Editor - MDPI Veterinary Sciences (http://www.mdpi.com/journal/vetsci/special_issues/TTP9) and Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases (https://www.journals.elsevier.com/ticks-and-tick-borne-diseases).

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Publications

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Supervision

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Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision