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Hernando A. del Portillo

Hernando A. del Portillo

Institut d'Investigació en Ciències de la Salut Germans Trias i Pujol & Institut de Salut Global Barcelona

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 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 became an ICREA Research Professor and joined the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, and in 2016 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 and the discovery that reticulocyte-derived exosomes from infections act as intercellular communicators and can be used as vaccines and biomarkers.


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.  To pursue bone marrow and spleen studies,  we are implementing the usage of humanized mouse models and organs-on-chip. To use this information in novel control strategies, we are exploring the use of reticulocyte-derived exosomes as a novel vaccine against P. vivax as well as novel biomarkers of liver hypnozite asymptomatic infections. To this end, we are immortalizing cell lines and constructig POC microfluidic devices. Last, to rapidly move this field to translation, we are pursuing the development of exosome-based vaccines against infectious diseases of veterinary importance.

Selected publications

– Elizalde-Torrent, Aleix; Trejo-Soto, Claudia; Mendez-Mora, Lourdes; Nicolau, Marc; Ezama, Oihane; Gualdron-Lopez, Melisa; Fernandez-Becerra, Carmen; Alarcon, Tomas; Hernandez-Machado, Aurora; del Portillo, Hernando A. 2021, ‘Pitting of malaria parasites in microfluidic devices mimicking spleen interendothelial slits’, Scientific Reports, 11, 1, 22099.

– Gualdrón-López M, Díaz-Varela M, Toda H, Aparici-Herraiz I, Pedró-Cos L, Lauzurica R, Lacerda MVG, Fernández-Sanmartín MA, Fernandez-Becerra C, Del Portillo HA 2021.’ Multiparameter Flow Cytometry Analysis of the Human Spleen Applied to Studies of Plasma-Derived EVs From Plasmodium vivax Patients’. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 11:596104.

– Montaner-Tarbes S, Fraile L, Montoya M, Del Portillo H 2021, ‘Exosome-Based Vaccines: Pros and Cons in the World of Animal Health’. Viruses. 13(8):1499.

– Fernandez-Becerra C, Aparici-Herraiz I, Del Portillo HA 2021. ‘Cryptic erythrocytic infections in Plasmodium vivax, another challenge to its elimination‘. Parasitol Int. ;87:102527.


Selected research activities

Invited talks: ASTMH online meeting. MESA Symposium:  Towards a Next-Generation Malaria Vaccine Portfolio: Innovations in Malaria Vaccine Development and First Meeting of the Portuguese Network on Extracellular Vesicles (PNEV)

President Grupo Español en Innovación e Investigación en Vesículas Extracelulares – GEIVEX. Feb 2016 – Nov 2021

Coordinator, “la Caixa” Research Health project: “Novel organ-on-a-chip technology to study extracellular vesicles-mediated cryptic infections in Plasmodium vivax malaria”.

ICREA Memoir 2021