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The team

Hernando A. del Portillo

Project Leader and Principal Investigator, Institut de Salut Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal), Spain

Hernando del Portillo studied molecular aspects of parasites at the University of Georgia, USA, where he received his PhD in 1985, followed by two WHO postdoctoral trainings at the New York University Medical Centre (USA) and the Institut Pasteur (France) where he specialized in molecular biology of malaria parasites. Since then, he has pursued molecular studies in malaria to unveil the mechanisms of virulence and to develop rational control strategies.

He consolidated his independent scientific career as an Assistant/Associate Professor at the Department of Parasitology, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil and as a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), Heidelberg, Germany.

He joined ISGlobal as an ICREA Research Professor in 2007 and co-ascribed to the Institut Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) in 2015. He is presently the President of the Grupo Español de Investigación e Innovación en Vesículas Extracelulares (GEIVEX) and Co-Founder of Innovex Therapeutics SL, the first Spanish company using Extracellular Vesicles as vaccines against infectious diseases. 

Cristina Barrias

Principal Investigator at INEB/i3S and Head of the Bioengineered 3D Microenvironments Group, Portugal

Cristina Barrias is Principal Investigator at i3S/INEB, and invited Associate Professor at Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS, University of Porto). Her group at i3S (Bioengineered 3D Microenvironments Group,, and focuses on the design of customized hydrogel 3D matrices, with tuneable biochemical/mechanical properties, to direct cellular self-assembly into vascularized (micro)tissues akin to native tissues. The aim is to recapitulate complex tissue morphogenesis processes, understand the dynamics of cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, and decipher key biochemical/mechanical regulators of cell response. This knowledge is being translated into the design of advanced 3D in vitro models and improved tissue regeneration therapies. Her work involves cutting-edge technologies, such as bio-orthogonal chemistry, stem cell biology and organoids, 3D printing, microfluidics, high-throughput screening, advanced bioimaging, transcriptomics, and proteomics. 

Currently, Cristina Barrias is a member of the Board of Directors of INEB, a member of the Restricted Coordinating Committee of i3S being vice-coordinator of the Integrative Programme “Host Interaction and Response”, and a member of the Council of the European Society for Biomaterials (ESB). She also serves as an Associate Editor of Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology journal, and as an Editorial Board member of the Journal of Applied Biomaterials and Functional Materials.

Aurora Hernandez-Machado

Principal Investigator, Full Professor at the Department of Physics, University of Barcelona

After a long period of theoretical mathematical modeling and in collaboration with international and national experimental groups, Aurora Hernandez-Machado has complemented her theoretical research by establishing a Laboratory of Microfluidics and Nanoscience at the Faculty of Physics of the University of Barcelona. In this Laboratory AHM has opened a new line of research on Microrheology which has given rise to a new concept that she has dubbed Front Microrheology with an associated international patent by the European Patent Office of Munich and U.S.A. Patent Office. She has also collaborated with Prof. del Portillo in a new line of malaria studies to model the spleen functionality by means of the design and fabrication of microstructured microchannels and the analysis of malaria infected blood. 

The group “Dynamics of interfaces in nanotechnology, fluidics and biophysics”” which will be involved in this project is presently composed of Lourdes Mendez-Mora and  JosepFerre-Torres, Ph.D. students and Oscar Castillo as a postdoctoral fellow . They will be in charge of the fabrication and validation of the microchips. The team and myself, will help in the mathematical modeling of the most convenient geometry of the microchannels, as well as in all the physical parameters of the microfluidic devices.

Wanalapa Roobsoong

Principal Investigator, Mahidol Vivax Research Unit (MVRU), Mahidol University

Wanlapa Roobsoong received a Ph.D. in Medical Technology from Mahidol University. She has broad background in malaria biology especially liver-stage and blood-stage of Plasmodium vivax. With her envision on “pushing malaria research beyond the lab”, she transforms her research works and knowledge to the real implementation in the field. With the unique resources, production of female Anopheles dirus mosquito and access to the population in malaria endemic sites, her research covers both parasite in the vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanism of gametocytogenesis and hypnozoite formation of P. vivax with an emphasis to discover new antimalarial drugs and vaccines and importantly biomarkers for hypnozoite carriers. She led the invention of a product called Young Blood, a ready-to-use reticulocyte-like cell generated from immortalized erythroid progenitor. Young red blood cells are required for in vitro culture of P. vivax, which is crucial for drug and vaccine development. She also implemented the primaquine mass drug administration in Thailand. She has developed several assays that benefits the research in P. vivax including in vitro culture system for P. vivax, the in vitro invasion inhibition assay for vaccine screening, In vitro and in vivo liver-stage model, liver-on-Chip, and Malaria Infection Study Thailand (MIST). 

As P. vivax cannot be continuously culture, P. vivax that will be added into the assay need to come from infected patients. In this project, Dr Roobsoong will responsible for collection of P. vivax cryopreserved parasites, plasma samples from asymptomatic and symptomatic malaria infection for exosome purification. At the last stage of the project, she will implement the Organ-on-Chip in the real malaria endemic setting in Thailand. She will also provide consultation on the project using her background knowledge and intensive experiences in P. vivax research

Carmen Fernandez-Becerra

Co-Principal Investigator, Institut de Salut Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal), Spain

Carmen Fernandez-Becerra received her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the Univ. of Granada in 1996. Later, she moved to Brazil (Univ. of Sao Paulo), where she did her first post-doctotal training, working on biological aspects of Plasmodium vivax. In 1998, she joined the ZMBH (Heidelberg) where she did her second postdoctoral stay working with Toxoplasma gondii. In 2000, she moved back to the Univ. of Sao Paulo as a Research Associated Fellow to continue her studies on P. vivax. In 2007, she joined ISGlobal’s research centre in the program of malaria and in 2007 and co-ascribed to the Institut Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP) in 2015. She is presently a Research Associate with a focus on functional assays to understand host-parasite interactions in the human malaria caused by P. vivax and in the development of a continuous in vitro culture for this species. Recently, she has opened a new research area on the use of extracellular vesicles as novel diagnostics.

Jetsumon Sattabongkot Prachumsri

Principal Investigator and Director, Mahidol Vivax Research Unit, Mahidol University, Thailand

I have been working on malaria research in endemic areas since 1985 when I was the section chief for the malaria research team at the Entomology Department, USAMC- AFRIMS. After 26 years working with the US Army laboratory I have joined the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University in 2011.  As the Director of the Mahidol Vivax Research Unit I lead a research team of 30 staff including junior scientists, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students (PhD and MS) and research technologists.  The team has more than 30 years combined experience in malaria epidemiology, malaria diagnosis by microscopy, in vitro culture of different stages of human malaria and study of gametocyte and mosquito stages of human malaria.  We are one of a few research groups in the world that consistently work on the P. vivax parasite, which cannot be simply continuously cultured in the laboratory and able to perform experiments on malaria transmission to major malaria vector in Asia, An.  dirus and An. minimus.  I have established the first field based membrane feeding assay for evaluation of transmission blocking vaccine against P. vivax human isolates.  Our team has participated in many consortiums working on P. vivax as the selected reference laboratory and the only laboratory that can evaluate the efficacy of transmission blocking vaccine candidates against P. vivax.  My unit’s unique capacity to do research on P. vivax biology, especially at the transmission stages including gametocyte and sporogonic development in mosquito vectors, have contributed to the progress on P. vivax research and other human malaria .  Recently we have been funded for the first P. vivax human challenge study in Thailand.  This study will increase our capacity to evaluate the new vaccine candidates and drugs against all stages of P. vivax.   


My research has been involve in studying of malaria transmission dynamic and vulnerable points for interruption of the transmission.  I have accessed malaria patients and the endemic population in areas with high malaria prevalence in Thailand.  The gametocyte infectiousness of both P. falciparum and P. vivax in both symptomatic and asymptomatic population is one area of research where I have significantly contributed.  The resources I have will contribute to evaluate any tools for interruption of malaria transmission including antimalarial drugs and transmission blocking vaccines.

Óscar Castillo-Fernandez

Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Physics, University of Barcelona, Spain

Óscar Castillo-Fernandez has a background in electronic engineering. He received his PhD in Biomedicine from the University of Barcelona (UB). He worked on the development of microfluidic devices for diagnostic at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia. In his work, Óscar used electric fields to handle and sense cells, with the idea of distinguishing cells by their morphology or their mechanical properties under flow conditions.

As a post-doc, Óscar joined the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona (IMB-CNM-CSIC), where he was involved in several projects related to bacteria detection and high volume sample processing. Developing compact and feasible systems that integrate the multiple and diverse processes required for an analytical detection on a single device. Processes like sample concentration, selectivity reactions and biosensing. During this period, he joined the EPFL where he was studying hydrogels as filtering tools.

Furthermore, Óscar was involved in two start-up initiatives, where he was dedicated to product development, prototyping and technology transfer. 

Recently, he has been working on Organ on a Chip projects, finding technical developments to integrate 3D printed scaffolds on microfluidic devices. 

In this project, Óscar Castillo-Fernandez will be in charge of the technology developments and protocols required for the Organ on a Chip platform. This includes the design, fabrication and validation of the microchip devices and the development of the complete bioreactor platform integrating the different cell environments. 

In this project, Óscar Castillo-Fernandez will be in charge of the technology developments and protocols required for the Organ on a Chip platform. This includes the design, fabrication, characterization and validation of the microchip devices and tools designed to generate all the developments required to accomplish a bioreactor platform integrating the different cell environments and blood circulation.  

Currently, he is attached to the Condensed Matter Physics Department at the University of Barcelona in Professor Aurora Hernandez-Machado’s group. Thanks to Aurora’s experience on theoretical models and blood circulation on microfluidic devices, we will work on the development of different characterization tools to understand the mechanical properties of hydrogels and blood behaviour in a microfluidic environment.

Nuria Sima

Postdoctoral fellow, Institut de Salut Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal), Spain

Núria Sima Teruel is a molecular biologist with special interest for neglected tropical diseases. She completed her PhD in 2016 (PEBC-IDIBELL) for research on mammalian Sirtuins and the epigenetic control of the cell cycle. She then went for a post doc at Institut Pasteur Paris where she studied DNA repair and antigenic variation in Trypanosoma brucei.  

In 2019, she started a transversal project, with Institut Pasteur Paris and Institut Pasteur Guinea, to developed a CRISPR-based molecular tool kit for Human African Trypanosomiasis diagnosis.  

From January 2022, she is a member of the PvREX group at ISGlobal and her aim is to unveil the role of extracellular vesicles in Plasmodium vivax cryptic infections using organ-on-a-chip technology and single-cell transcriptomics.

Hugo Caires

Junior Researcher, Bioengineered 3D Microenvironments, i3S, Portugal

Hugo R. Caires received his BSc. degree in Nuclear Medicine from the ESTSP of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, in 2010, where he became an invited assistant professor in 2011. During his PhD studies at ICBAS/Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto Hugo explored how distinct 3D biomaterials modulate the hosts’ immune response to control the endogenous recruitment and motility of mesenchymal stem cells and fibroblasts, pivotal to determine the regenerative outcome, using innovative 3D imaging approaches and bioengineered triple cell co-culture systems. During his post-doc, Hugo was challenged to develop novel strategies to monitor the development of multidrug resistance (MDR) and measurable residual disease (MRD) in patients with haematological malignancies. Most importantly, the potential for clinical application allowed him to become the Team Leader of “CLEVER Diagnostics” among the selected projects for the 2019 edition of the HiTECH entrepreneurship intensive program

Hugo has developed research in different scientific domains and research environments, notably, he published in the most prestigious journals of his research fields. Since 2015, he has published 13 full-papers in top peer-reviewed journals, 4 of them as first author, 4 as second author and 1 as corresponding author. His work involves the use of crossed innovation technologies on the fields of Tissue Engineering, Cell Imaging, Stem Cell Biology, Immunology, Extracellular Vesicles and Cancer Biomarkers. Since November 2021, Hugo Caires joined the Bioengineered 3D Microenvironments group at i3S as a Junior Researcher for the HIDDENVIVAX project, under the supervision of Prof. Doctor Cristina Barrias.

In this project, Hugo Caires will be in charge of the technology developments and protocols of vascularized 3D microcultures of the human bone marrow and spleen using different biomaterials.

Marc Nicolau i Fernández

Laboratory Technician, Institut de Salut Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal), Spain

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) for 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., obtention and characterization of extracellular vesicles while doing functions of lab managing. He is interested in learning more about parasitology, extracellular vesicles and new techniques to develop his scientific career.