Biotech Nexus Lab to target bovine breakthroughs

27 February 2024

Connection is key for the new Associate Professor in Animal Biotechnology at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation.

Associate Professor Sheila Ommeh plans to establish the Biotech Nexus Lab at QAAFI and the first target of her research is pestivirus, a virus that is endemic in Australian cattle.

headshot of Associate Prof Sheila Ommeh with office building behind her
Associate Professor Sheila Ommeh. Image: Megan Pope, UQ

"Nexus is a very important word because it means connections, and I thought starting my research in Australia, it would be good to look at connections," Dr Ommeh said.

"I want to find out why pestivirus is endemic and why it is not being eradicated.

"I also want to complement the research already underway at QAAFI and to collaborate with the world class researchers here as a colleague rather than a competitor and that is why I have chosen pestivirus."

Pestivirus or bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) is highly contagious and can cause diarrhoea, early term abortion, reduced reproductive performance, loss of condition and respiratory disease in cattle.

Dr Ommeh said she will consider the connections pestivirus may have with other diseases.

"My previous research with the International Livestock Research Institute on Newcastle disease in poultry for example has shown that eradicating the virus will not be the panacea, as it won't be the only infection present," she said.

"I want to see what the most common coinfections in cattle are, because pestivirus often goes unnoticed even though it's endemic in Australian cattle.

"It often occurs as a coinfection with Bovine Respiratory disease."

And she has lofty goals for the new laboratory and the team she plans to create, starting with the recruitment of a post-doc researcher in the next month.

"In five years I want to have a very clear molecular assay for pestivirus in cattle in Queensland and beyond," Dr Ommeh said.

"Something simple that doesn't compromise on specifics or sensitivity.

"And that should be leading to other diagnostic assays in other livestock as well as the development of vaccines.

"It's all connected."

Images are available via Dropbox.

Media: Associate Professor Sheila Ommeh,, +61 7 3443 6346;  QAAFI Media, Natalie MacGregor,, +61 409 135 651.

The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation is a research institute at The University of Queensland supported by the Queensland Government via the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.