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 (patents pending) and commercialized diagnostic tools for bovine reproductive diseases. Prof Tabor has attained $5.7 million in competitive grants in the last 10 years including the ARC, pharma and industry. Current research includes paralysis tick vaccines/treatments, cattle tick 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, and the Chair of the organising committee for the 9th International Tick and Tick-borne Pathogen (TTP9) conference to be held for the first time in Australia in 2017. Her research vision is to translate her research outcomes into viable products and methods for the benefit of cattle producers and pet owners.

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 (Sackett & Holmes, MLA report, 2006). Cost of losses due to reproductive wastage from infectious diseases is difficult to determine due to the lack of specific diagnostic tests for several diseases. 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 pharma for the commercialisation of 2 very different anti-tick vaccines - the cattle tick and the Australian paralysis tick. Cattle tick research (using a genomics - reverse vaccinology approach) commenced in 2005 and proof of concept trials have shown excellent results. This cattle tick program (~$4m investment since 2005) has been a large collaboration including 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 the following:

  • bovine retroviruses (to ensure live vaccines produced in vivo do not infect vaccinated cattle) (Lew et al 2004a,b);
  • bovine tick fever pathogens (anaplasmosis and babesiosis) – monitoring of live vaccine stocks and the investigation of outbreaks including New Caledonia caused by the importation of Australian cattle (Lew et al 1998; Lew et al 2002; Bing et al 2016);
  • Bovine venereal/reproductive diseases tests (McMillen and Lew 2006);
  • Screw worm fly quarantine preparedness – trap test to detect incursions from Papua New Guinea (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. Ala has direct International collaborations including The University of Pretoria (South Africa), EMBRAPA Brazil, Washington State University and the US Department of Agriculture.

Ala is the Chair of the 9th International Tick and Tick-borne Pathogen Conference (TTP9) to be held with the Inaugural Asia-Pacific Rickettsia Conference in 2017 - for the first time in Australia. See the conference web-site http://www.ttp9-aprc1.com/

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Publications

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Supervision

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Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision