Our people

Dr Rachel Perret

BsC (Hons), PhD (Otago)

Team Leader, Freemasons CAR T-cell Research Programme

Dr Rachel Perret is a Team Leader in the Malaghan Institute's Freemasons CAR T-cell Research Programme. Dr Perret studied Microbiology at the University of Otago before doing her PhD in Immunology with Professor Franca Ronchese at the Malaghan Institute. She has spent several years working at the Ludwig Center for Cancer Research at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and then the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, USA, to complete her postdoctoral training. In January 2020, Dr Perret returned to the Malaghan Institute to join the Freemasons CAR T-cell Research Programme.

Research interests

My research interests lie in investigating how the immune system can be trained to fight cancer more effectively. I am particularly focused on engineering and redirecting T lymphocytes to recognise cancer cell proteins more effectively, and thus specifically and safely target tumours for destruction. I have worked extensively on the gene-therapy of T-cells using natural T-cell receptor (TCR) genes and I’m excited to adapt and extend that knowledge to working with chimeric antigen receptors (CAR), which are another powerful weapon in the war against cancer.

Our goal in the Freemasons CAR T-cell Research Programme is to build on the work that lead to the NZ-first phase I CAR T-cell clinical trial, currently underway at the Malaghan Institute. We are investigating the different costimulatory signalling pathways that control the internal workings of CAR T-cells. We aim to identify beneficial aspects that we can enhance, and to pinpoint any weaknesses that we can work on fixing. This will allow us to design even better, safer, and more broadly applicable CAR T-cell therapies for both blood cancers and solid tumours.

Research group

Cancer Immunotherapy Programme
Cancer Immunotherapy Programme Leader: Professor Ian Hermans
Senior Research Fellow: Dr Olivier Gasser
Clinical Research Fellow: Dr Robert Weinkove
Team Leader: Dr Rachel Perret
Postdoctoral Research Fellows: Dr Patricia Rubio-Reyes
Dr Regan Fu
Dr Nathaniel Dasyam
Dr Olivia Burn
Senior Research Officers: Connie Gilfillan
Astrid Authier-Hall
Kathryn Farrand
Ching-Wen Tang
Research Officers: Olga Palmer
Tia Haira
PhD Students: Jarem Wylie
Yasmin Nouri
Ellie-May Jarvis
Clinical Trials
Clinical Director: Dr Robert Weinkove
Deputy Director of Research: Professor Ian Hermans
Team Leader: Dr Rachel Perret
Clinical Research Fellow: Dr Philip George
GMP Manager: Bethany Andrews
Quality Manager: Dr Giulia Giunti
Senior GMP Specialist: Dr Brigitta Mester
GMP Production Technician: Reggie Duffield