Rachael graduated with a BVSc from Sydney University in 1999 and worked in mixed practice in Australia and the UK. She then did PhD on retroviruses of koalas at the University of Queensland. She spent time after this working as a postdoctoral researcher for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries participating in vaccine trials testing oral vaccination strategies for ruminants and at Georg August Universitaet Goettingen in Germany, examining the interactions between human coronaviruses, including SARs, and human plasmacytic dendritic cells. She then joined the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science in 2007 where she teaches undergraduate and clinical phase veterinary medicine students and runs a research program in animal infectious diseases
My primary research focus is on endogenous retroviruses. These viruses are the remnants of past infections that have become incorporated in their hosts genome (about 10% of the human genome is made up of segments of retrovirus). I am particularly interested in the process by which retroviruses become integrated into their host's normal cellular functions. I have current projects on Koala retrovirus (KoRV) and the role of human endogenous retroviruses in autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. Recent work has included retroviruses in dogs, horses, primates, chickens and squirrels and we are beginning some work on fish. I also work on infectious retroviruses with current projects on the impacts of Maedi Visna in sheep breeding.
I also have research interests in emerging viral diseases and viral diseases in domestic animals. My current projects include Schmallenberg virus impacts on ruminant reproduction, tick borne diseases of Nigerian dogs, European hantaviruses and novel rodent viruses diagnostic test development and Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus 1 (the cause of a fatal haemorrhagic syndrome in juvenile elephants in collaboration with Twycross Zoo). Past work has included rabies and tick borne diseases of Indian street dogs, Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus 1 (the cause of a fatal haemorrhagic syndrome in juvenile elephants in collaboration with Twycross Zoo), SARs coronavirus immunology and oral vaccination systems for ruminants.