PLASMODIUM VIVAX AND EXOSOME RESEARCH 
(PVREX)

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Principal Investigators

HERNANDO A DEL PORTILLO OBANDO 

ICREA Research Professor at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) & Institut d’Investigació Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP)

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.

CARMEN FERNÁNDEZ BECERRA

Assistant Research Professor

In 1996 she received her doctorate in biology at the University of Granada, after which she made several stays postdoctoral training in different international institutions (University São Paulo, Brazil and ZMBH, Heidelberg-Germany) working on the biological aspects of Plasmodium vivax. In 2007, she joined the research center ISGlobal as Research Assistant Professor, and since then has worked in the malaria program.
The main achievements in this regard are:
i) Identification, annotation and characterization of genes in P. vivax variants (Portillo et al, Nature. 2001; Fernandez-Becerra et al, Mol Microbiol. 2005; Carlton et al, Fernandez-Becerra et al, Nature. 2008; Lopez et al., BMC Genomics 2013).
ii) Functional studies involving protein variants of P. vivax and demonstration their role in adhesion to endothelial cells (Bernabeu et al., Cell Microbiol 2011).
Currently her main areas of research are focused on:
1. Function and location variants in P. vivax proteins.
2. Discovery of antigens to develop vaccine against P. vivax malaria.
3. Creating a continuous culture system for blood stages of P. vivax. 
4. Role of exosomes in natural infections of P.vivax

Present Members

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Melisa Gualdrón López

Postdoctoral researcher

Melisa Gualdrón-López is a biologist interested in Molecular Parasitology. During her MSc studies in Venezuela, she investigated molecular interactions of Leishmania mexicana (parasite responsible for cutaneous Leishmaniasis in the New World) and its mammalian host. In 2012 she obtained a PhD degree in Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the “Université catholique de Louvain” in Belgium where her research was focused on organelle biogenesis in the African parasite Trypanosoma brucei, the etiologic agent of human Sleeping Sickness. Her first postdoctoral research (2013) was performed in Venezuela studying organellar membrane proteins, carbohydrate metabolism and exosome biogenesis in Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas Disease. Her career continued with a postdoctoral stage at the "Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais", Brazil, where she spent the last two years (2014-2015) studying cellular immunology and inflammatory cell signaling pathways in Chagas disease, and collaborating in projects that involved the study of immune response against parasites causing Malaria.

Recently, she joined Dr. Hernando del Portillo’s group where she started a postdoctoral research on the molecular characterization of exosomes derived from Plasmodium vivax infections and its potential as biomarkers.

Our Team

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Míriam Díaz Varela

PhD student

Míriam Díaz Varela is a PhD student working in the Plasmodium vivax and Exosome Research Group (ISGlobal/IGTP). She got her MSc in Biomedical Research at Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona) in 2014 and her bachelor’s degree in Biology at University of León in 2013. She was a visiting researcher at the National Centre for Cancer Research in Madrid, the Tropical Medicine Foundation Doctor Heitor Vieira Dourado (FMT-HVD) in Manaus (Brazil), and the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle (USA).

Her main areas of research include extracellular vesicles, immunology, and infectious diseases. Particularly, she has been working on reticulocyte-derived exosomes in order to assess their role as conveyors of immune responses and their potential as a vaccine platform against malaria

Our Team

PhD Student

Haruka Toda

PhD student

I took Bachelor in Chemistry in Hokkaido University in Japan, where I researched in the laboratory of Signaling in Cancer and Immunology in Institute for Genetic Medicine. After that, I studied Master in Clinical Research: International Health track in University of Barcelona in Spain, where I researched in the group of Malaria Vivax in el Instituto de Salud Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal), and continuing Ph.D. program in the same laboratoty.

Our Team

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Iris Aparici Herraiz

PhD Student

Iris Aparici Herraiz graduated in Microbiology at Autonomous University of Barcelona in 2015. As an undergraduate student she did an internship in Microbiological Analysis Service at the Hospital Universitari de la Vall d’Hebron (Barcelona) in 2014. Her interest in immunology led her to study the MSc in Advanced Immunology at University of Barcelona in 2016. On her master thesis she studied the role of MDA5 promoter in Aicardi-Goutières syndrome. Currently, she is a student in the Medicine and Translational Research PhD Program at University of Barcelona. Her PhD thesis aims to demonstrate that reticulocyte-derived exosomes (REX) from infections mediate signalling mechanisms between the bone marrow and the spleen to compensate from bone marrow anaemia through extramedullar haematopoiesis. Apart from her interest in science, Iris is also interested in swimming, scuba diving, music and travelling.

Our Team

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Alberto Ayllón Hermida

PhD Student
Alberto is graduated in Microbiology by the Autonomous University of Barcelona. After that, he obtained a MSc in Clinical Research in International Health at the University of Barcelona where he started his research career in the field of molecular biology, genetics and transcriptomics at the Plasmodium Vivax and Exosomes Research Group (PvREX), working particularly in the functional characterization of preferentially expressed genes in the bone marrow during acute malaria infection. He has been recently accepted in the PhD programme of Medicine and Translational Research at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Barcelona and he will be researching at our group where he will continue with his work with the transcriptome of the Plasmodium vivax parasite during acute malaria infection.

Our Team

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Marc Nicolau Fernández

Laboratory technician

Marc Nicolau i Fernández obtained the CFGS on clinical diagnostic laboratory at Institut La Guineueta, in Barcelona in 2015. He carried out the practical program in a microbiology laboratory in Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) during 4 months. From October 2015, he has been working as a laboratory technician in the Malaria Vivax and Exosomes group at Institut Germans Tries I Pujol (Badalona). During this time he has been focused on in vitro malaria culture. He is interested in learning more about parasitology, extracellular vesicles and new techniques to develop his scientific career.

Visiting PhD Student

Carlos Javier Castro Cavadia

PhD Student at Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia)

Carlos Castro Cavadía graduated in Bacteriology at the University of Córdoba-Colombia in 2009. He obtained an MSc in Tropical Microbiology at the University of Córdoba in 2014 carrying out a research project on genetic diversity of Plasmodium vivax. Currently, he is a student in the Biomedical Science at University of Antioquia-Colombia. His PhD thesis aims to describe fundamental aspects of epidemiology, the clinical-paraclinical picture, the treatment, the physiopathogenesis of gestational and placental malaria due to P. vivax and its effects on maternal, fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. His interest in life sciences and infectious diseases led him to undertake a six-month internship in the group of Dr. Hernando del Portillo at the Institute of Global Health of Barcelona (ISGlobal).

Former Members

POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWS:

2010-2015

Lorena Martin-Jaular 

Present position: Institut Curie, Paris, France;


2014 - 2015 

Bárbara Baro

CsF Postdoctoral Fellowship

Research area: molecular basis of anemia in P. vivax

Present position: Stanford School of Medicine

2014 - 2015 

Katrien de Roost

CsF Postdoctoral Fellowship

Research area: molecular basis of anemia in P. vivax

Present position: postdoctoral Fellow The Francis Crick Institute


2013- 2015 

Armando Menezes

CNPq postdoctoral Fellow

Research area: Function of exosomes in malaria infections.

Present position: postdoctoral Fellow Rene Rachou Institute


2008 - 2014 

Lorena Martin

CRESIB Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Project: Role of reticulocyte-derived exosomes in vivax malaria

Present position: postdoctoral Fellow Institut Marie Courie


2010 - 2013 

Núria Antón

GSK Tres Cantos Postdoctoral Fellow

Project: Development of an in vitro culture for P. vivax

Present position: unknown


2010 - 2012 

Francisco Javier López

MCINN

Project: bioinformatics and transcriptional analysis P. vivax

Present Position: The Sanger Centre


2009 - 2011 

Edmilson Rui

CNPq Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Project: high-throughput expression of malarial proteins for antigen discovery

Present position: industry position


2009 - 2010 

Luis Izquierdo

Ramón y Cajal Fellowship

Project: P. falciparum, glycobiology and novel drug discovery

Present Position: Assistant Research Professor ISGlobal


2007 - 2009 

Anna Rosanas-Urgell

CRESIB Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Project: Molecular epidemiological studies in PNG

Present Position: Head Parasitology Unit IMR PNG


2007- 2008 

Marina Brucett

Spain

CRESIB Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Project: Immunogenicity of Vir proteins in Natural Infections

Present Position: unknown


2002 - 2005 

Emilio Fernando Merino 

Argentina.

FAPESP Fellowship

Research Project: large-scale analysis of vir genes from wild isolates

Present Position: Staff scientist Virginia tech


1999-2003 

Carmen Fernandez-Becerra

Spain

FAPESP and CNPq Fellowships

Research Project: Discovery and biology of vir genes

Present Position: Associate Research Professor at ISGlobal


1997-1999 

Gerhard Wunderlich

Germany.

FAPESP fellowship

Research Project: DNA vaccines - Plasmodium vivax

Present Position: Assistant Professor. University of Sao Paulo, Brazil


1991-1994 

Gabriela L. Levitus

Argentina.

BID Fellowship

Research Project: Naturally acquired immune responses in P. vivax infections

Present Position: Director ArgenBio, Argentina


1990-1993 

Fréderic Mertens

Belgium.

BID Fellowship

Research Project: Naturally acquired immune responses in P. vivax infections

Present Position: Associate Professor. University of Bahia, Brazil



GRADUATE STUDENTS:

2013 - 2018

Aleix Elizalde Torrent. PhD Student.

Thesis: Role of the spleen in malaria infection


2011 - 2016 

Mariana de Niz Hidalgo. PhD Student. 

Thesis: Imaging the spleen in malaria. EVIMalaR PhD fellowship.


2008 - 2013 

Maria Bernabeu (CRESIB fellowhip). 

Thesis: Subcellular localization of variant proteins from P. vivax in heterologous systems.


2007 - 2012 

Mireia Ferrer. Spain (Catalonian Generalitat Fellowship). 

Thesis: Structure and function of the spleen in murine malaria models


2004 - 2010 

Pamela Sánchez Orjuela. Colombia (CNPq Fellowship). 

Thesis: Molecular studies of drug resistance in Plasmodium vivax

Present Position: Post-doctoral Fellow, U. San Diego, USA


2004 - 2007 

Ariane Machado Lima. Brazil (CNPq Fellowship). 

Thesis: Computational predictions of non-coding RNA in Plasmodium

Present Position: Assistant Professor, USP. Brazil


2002 - 2006 

Mauro Ferreira de Azevedo. Brazil (FAPESP Fellowship) 

Thesis: Functional analysis of Plasmodium through reverse genetics

Present Position: Post-doctoral Fellow, WEHI, Australia


2000-2005 

Sergio Rodriguez Malaga. Chile (CAPES Fellowship). 

Thesis: Role of the spleen in Plasmodium infections

Present Position: Postdoctoral Fellow. University of Sao Paulo, Brazil


2001-2004 

Juliana Martha Sá. Brazil (FAPESP fellowship). 

Thesis: Molecular basis of chloroquine resistance in P. vivax

Present position: Research Fellow NIAID-NIH


1997-2002 

Karin Kirchgatter. Brazil. 

Thesis: Associations of severe P. falciparum malaria and var gene sequences

Present Position: Senior Research Fellow Malaria Reference Diagnostic Centre, Brazil


1995-2000 

Camila Indiani de Oliveira. Brazil (FAPESP/CNPq Fellowships). 

Thesis: DNA vaccines in P. vivax

Present Position: Assistant Professor. FIOCRUZ, Brasil


1996-1999 

Lindsay A Pirrit. Scotland (FAPESP Fellowship). 

Thesis: Telomerase in P. falciparum

Present Position: English Editor. Scotland


1995-1999 

Márcia Aparecida Sperança. Brasil (FAPESP/CNPq Fellowships). 

Thesis: Molecular studies of the cell cycle in malaria

Present Position: Assistant Professor. University of Marilia. Brazil


1995-1998 

Irene da Silva Soares. Brasil (FAPESP fellowship). 

Thesis: Naturally Acquired Humoral IgG responses against the Merozoite Surface Protein 1 of Plasmodium vivax (PvMSP1)

Present Position: Assistant Professor University of Sao Paulo. Brazil


1994-1997 

Anamaria A Camargo. Brasil (FAPESP/CNPq Fellowships). 

Thesis: Genome organization in Plasmodium vivax

Present Position: Research Professor Ludwig Institute


MASTERS STUDENTS:

2018

Alberto Ayllón Hermida

Masters Student. Universidad de Barcelona. 

Title: Functional characterization of variant genes preferentially expressed in the bone marrow of Plasmodium vivax infected patients


2018

Pamela Allison Manco Urbina

Masters Student. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Title: Immunogenicity of P.vivax proteins


2018

Concha Ortiz Cartagena

Masters Student. Universitat de Barcelona. 

Title: Exosomal biomarker proteins in P. vivax malaria


2014 

Miriam Diaz Varela

Masters Student. Universidad Pompeu Fabra. 

Title: Immunogenicity of reticulocyte-derived exosomes.


2014 

Ana Gámez

Masters Student. Universidad de Barcelona. 

Title: Proteomics composition of reticulocyte-derived exosomes.


2014 

Pei-An Li.

Masters Student. Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. 

Title: Targeted expression of reporter genes into exosomes.


2012 - 2013

Richard Thomson Luque

Title: Establishment of a continuous in vitro culture system for blood stages of Plasmodium vivax.


2013 

Carlos Yauli

Title: Expression profile of reticulocyte-derived exosomes in malarial infections


2011 - 2012 

Carolina Bustamante

CNPq Fellowship

Title: Functional analysis of drug-resistance genes


2009 - 2010 

Cristina Pelligero

MEC Fellowship – requested.

Title: Antigen discovery in P. vivax through tolerization of mice.


2009 - 2010 

Pablo Suárez

La Caixa fellowship.

Title: Transcriptional profile of erythropoiesis.


FORMER VISITING STUDENTS:

2018

Christian Miquel Sanchez Lopez

PhD Student. Universitat de Valencia, Comunitat Valenciana, Spain.

Title: Identification of Faciola hepatica EV proteins with diagnosis potential and heterologous expression in cell-free system


2016

Anne Almeida

PhD student.  Universidade do Estado do Amazonas, UEA, Manaus, Brazil

Title: Bases moleculares e funçao das vesículas extracelulares na resistência de Plasmodium Vivax à cloroquina.


Marcelo Brito

PhD student.  Universidade do Estado do Amazonas, UEA, Manaus, Brazil

Title: Modificaçoes celulare e transcricionais na medula óssea humana relacionadas à anemia na malária por Plasmodium Vivax.