Unitat de Tuberculosi Experimental
The Unitat de Tuberculosi Experimental (Experimental Tuberculosis Unit, UTE), was founded by Dr. Pere-Joan Cardona in 1997 within the research group “Grup de Microbiologia Clínica i Patologia Infecciosa Experimental de la Fundació Institut d’Investigació en Ciències de la Salut Germans Trias i Pujol” (2009 SGR 1485), liderated by Dr. Vicenç Ausina. The UTE is now part of the Fundació Institut d’Investigació en Ciències de la Salut Germans Trias i Pujol (IGTP).
The UTE focus its main research devoted to the Latent Tuberculosis Infection. The study of the immunopathology of the infection led Dr. Cardona to propose a new hypothesis to explain the Latent Tuberculosis Infection, in order to integrate the physiological and clinical human disease and the pathological and microbiologic aspects of the bacillus. This new hypothesis, named the Dynamic Hypothesis, led to new experiments on different animal models in order to better adjust the phenomenon of latency in humans (guinea pigs, minipigs and goats), as well as to the the design, patent and development of RUTI® as a therapeutic vaccine to shorten the chemotherapy of latent tuberculosis infection. RUTI® is based on the study of latent tuberculous bacilli and it has proved to generate immunogenicity against specific M.tuberculosis antigens. The vaccine is now entirely manufactured under GMP conditions and developed by the biotech company named Archivel Farma S.L., created as a spin-off of the IGTP, and Dr. Pere-Joan Cardona being its the scientific director. RUTI® is now being tested in Phase II Clinical Trial in SouthAfrica, after demonstrating its safety and immunogenicity in a Phase 1 CT, and has also proved both a prophylactic and a post-exposure effect, generating 2 other patents.
Recent findings obtained in last scientific studies on LTBI have encouraged Dr. Cardona to develop new approaches to study the infection and specially its evolution towards active tuberculosis, in order to generate new and more efficient diagnostic and therapeutic tools.
The research of the UTE is also devoted to study the tuberculous lesions (granulomas) in experimental models, as well as the continuous development of new models in order to mimic better the human tuberculosis and its evolution, including mathematical approaches.
The wide experience of Dr. Cardona and his team on experimental animal models, translational research and latent tuberculosis has permitted Dr. Cardona to be contacted by other research groups as well as by private companies to evaluate their new therapeutic strategies. The RUTI® project has gave the UTE enough expertise to be wellconsidered by the scientific community on testing vaccine candidates on different animal models, and thus since 2005 the UTE has been collaborating with private biotech/biopharmaceutical companies (Archivel Farma S.L., Grup Ferrer, GlaxoSmithKline, Statens Serum Institute) and involved in several national and international consortiums (CRP-TB Consortium of the CIBERES net, funded by the Spanish Government; “Grand Challenge in global health” (GC#12) Consortium, “Preclinical and clinical evaluation of a post-exposure TB vaccine” funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and 3 european consortia funded by the 7th Framework Program of the European Commission (STOPLATENT-TB (grant agreement 200999), NEWTBVAC (241745) and NOPERSIST (FP7-SME-2008-1, 232188).
The UTE is also linked to the University (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), to the Microbiology and Genetics Department (Dr. Cardona, associate professor and Dr. Vilaplana, teaching assistant) and the Pathology Department (G. Tapia, lecturer). Dr. Cardona has been recently (2009) accredited as a professor by the ANECA (National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation). The UTE has also trained several people in animal experimentation, research on tuberculosis and vaccines’ development.