Hernando A. del Portillo

Institut d’Investigació en Ciències de la Salut Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) & Institut de Salut Global Barcelona (ISGlobal)

Life & Medical Sciences

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 sabattical year at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), University of Heidelberg. In 2007, I joined the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, and this year co-joined 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.

Research interests

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 are implementing the usage of humanized mouse models and microfluidic approaches. In addition, we are exploring the use of exosomes as novel vaccines and biomarkers in vivax malaria aimed for elimination. 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.

Selected publications

– Martín-Jaular L, de Menezes-Neto A, Monguió-Tortajada M, Elizalde-Torrent A, Díaz-Varela M, Fernández-Becerra C, Borras FE, Montoya M & Del Portillo HA 2016, ‘Spleen-Dependent Immune Protection Elicited by CpG Adjuvanted Reticulocyte-Derived Exosomes from Malaria Infection Is Associated with Changes in T cell Subsets’ Distribution’, Front Cell Dev Biol., 16;4:131. eCollection 2016.

– Montaner-Tarbes S, Borras FE, Montoya M, Fraile L & del Portillo HA, 2016, ‘Serum-derived exosomes from non-viremic animals previously exposed to the porcine respiratory and reproductive virus contain antigenic viral proteins’, Veterinary Research, 47, 59.

– Requena P, Rui E, Padilla N, Martinez-Espinosa FE, Castellanos ME, Botto-Menezes C, Malheiro A, Arevalo-Herrera M, Kochar S, Kochar SK, Kochar DK, Umbers AJ, Ome-Kaius M, Wangnapi R, Hans D, MenegonM, Mateo F, Sanz S, Desai M, Mayor A, Chitnis CC, Bardaji DA, Mueller I, Rogerson S, Severini C, Fernandez-Becerra C, Menendez C, del Portillo H & Dobano C 2016, ‘Plasmodium vivax VIR Proteins Are Targets of Naturally-Acquired Antibody and T Cell Immune Responses to Malaria in Pregnant Women’, Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases, 10, 10, e0005009.

Selected research activities

– Chairperson First symposium on Exosomes XXXIX Congreso de la SEBBM. Sept. 5th to 8th 2016; Salamanca.


– Invited speaker in ISEV workshop: Cross-Organism Communication by Extracellular Vesicles;Nov.  24th to 25th 2016; Sao Paulo.