HERNANDO A DEL PORTILLO OBANDO
I studied at the University of Georgia where I received my PhD in 1985 followed by two WHO-postdoctoral trainings at the New York University Medical Centre and the Institut Pasteur where I specialized in molecular biology of malaria. Next, I consolidated an interdisciplinary and multi-Centric malaria research group at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1990, I did a sabbatical year at the Centre for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), University of Heidelberg. In 2007, I joined the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, and this year conjoined the Institut d’Investigació Germans Trias i Pujol. Cornerstones of this research activity are the discovery of the largest multigene virulent family of human malaria parasites involved in spleen immune evasion and the discovery that reticulocyte-derived exosomes from infections act as intercellular communicators and can be used as a novel vaccine and platform against malaria.
My main research area is the biology of Plasmodium vivax, a neglected human malaria parasite responsible for millions of yearly clinical cases. We are presently looking for mechanistic insights of the role of reticulocyte-derived exosomes, nanovesicles of endocytic origin, in signalling the spleen and the bone marrow to unveil molecular basis of anaemia and splenomegaly and to use this information in rationale vaccine development. To pursue spleen studies, we have constructed this organ on-a-chip and are now evaluating its usage in studies of malaria and of other haematological disorders. In addition, we are exploring the use of exosomes as novel vaccines and biomarkers in other human neglected parasitic diseases. Last, we are immortalizing human hematopoietic stem cells to develop a continuous in vitro culture system for blood stages of this malaria species, a major technological key-gap to advance studies of this neglected human malaria.