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.
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.