Vall d'Hebron COVID-19 research

At Vall d’Hebron, healthcare and research go hand-in-hand in the battle against COVID-19. From the very beginning, all of our professionals joined forces to tackle the challenges presented by an unprecedented global pandemic. This has made us a figurehead hospital in the fight against COVID-19.

Vall d’Hebron Research Task Force COVID-19

 

 

The Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus has been, and continues to be, a reference centre in the fight against COVID-19. During the first wave of the pandemic, it was the hospital with the most coronavirus hospitalisations in Catalonia, and also received the largest number of patients in its ICU. However, it isn’t just a benchmark in the field of healthcare. From the very outset, its research into COVID-19 has become one of the key axes of the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute’s research groups. A good example of this scientific activity is the publication of more than 100 articles on COVID-19, with Vall d’Hebron professionals participating from the very beginning of the pandemic.

With the experience that we have accumulated over these intense months and our desire to continuously improve, we have created a multi-disciplinary task force which comprises more than 140 investigators in order to provide citizens with the best possible service while addressing many of the challenges that are still being posed by COVID-19.

These professionals belong to 28 research groups (27 from the VHIR [Vall d’Hebron Research Institute] and one from the VHIO [Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology]), 31 Hospital care departments, a VHIR Technical-Scientific Department (the Statistics and Bioinformatics Unit), the Hospital’s Directorate of Information Systems and the IDIAP Jordi Gol Primary Care Centre.

Some of the main objectives of this Task Force are:

  • To concentrate and coordinate the efforts of all of the professionals involved.
  • To strengthen horizontal support, ensuring that the proposed initiatives and activities are carried out.
  • To continue encouraging and facilitating the work of our researchers in the publication of COVID-19 papers and in the execution of competitive projects (several of which are currently underway) to achieve production and knowledge of even greater importance. In this sense, the coordination of scientific efforts on an institutional level is nothing new. For example, the hospitals that belong to the European University Hospitals Alliance (EUHA) have been implementing different strategies to coordinate their activities and identify synergies within their scientific community.

Task Force COVID-19 Steering Committee

Dr. Magda Campins

Dr. Magda Campins

Dr. Tomàs Pumarola

Dr. Tomàs Pumarola

Dr. Benito Almirante

Dr. Benito Almirante

Dr. Ricard Ferrer

Dr. Ricard Ferrer

Dr. Jaume Joan Ferrer

Dr. Jaume Joan Ferrer

Dr. Ricardo Pujol

Dr. Ricardo Pujol

Dr. Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga

Dr. Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga

Dr. Pere Soler

Dr. Pere Soler

Governance

Discover our research activity

Discover our research activity

The 140-plus professionals who form part of this project have been organised into 18 multi-disciplinary working sub-groups, each focusing on a specific aspect of COVID-19. They are divided into blocks based on the type of research that they carry out. Below we will present each of the groups and the main lines of research that their work will focus on:

 

Block A: Molecular / Cellular / Mechanistic

Immune risk profile in COVID-19

Scientific lines

  • Immune risk profile in COVID-19.
  • Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) in COVID-19.
  • T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Role of mastocytes in COVID-19 physiopathology.
  • Participation in the international COVIDHGE consortium.
  • LiF as a potential therapeutic objective against COVID-19.
  • Role of haemadsorption of cytokines as a salvage treatment for severe forms of COVID-19.

Group leader:

  • Hernández González, Manuel

Main researchers:

  • Hernández González, Manuel
  • Martínez Gallo, Mónica
  • Seoane Suarez, Joan
  • Colobran Oriol, Roger
  • Ruiz Rodriguez, Juan Carlos
  • Ramon y Cajal Agüeras, Santiago
  • Soler Palacín, Pere
  • Martín Nalda, Andrea
  • Rivière, Jacques
  • Esperalba Esquerra, Juliana
  • Pujol Borrell, Ricardo
  • Sanchez Montalvá, Adrián
  • Labrador Horrillo, Moisés

Phenotypes and precision medicine

Scientific lines:

  • Precision medicine requires the identification of various phenotypes and biomarkers that enable the personalisation of treatments and the comparison of developments and complications. The research questions are focused on clarifying the interaction between the virus and the host.
  • The group has made a contribution to phenotype identification and is raising research questions in biomarkers in several subpopulations and database analyses. Identifying various biomarkers enables these phenotypes to be characterised and a prognostic stratification to be made, as well as comparisons with other viruses (the RSV, the influenza virus, etc.).
  • The line is focused on the disease and covers the ambulance, hospitalisation, ICU and post-COVID follow-up stages.

Group leader:

  • Rello Condomines, Jordi

Main researchers:

  • Rello Condomines, Jordi
  • Balcells Ramirez, Joan
  • Mazo Torre, Cristopher Alan
  • Peña Lopez, Yolanda
  • Pont Castellana, Teresa
  • Sandiumenge Camps, Alberto
  • Tejada Magraner, Sofia

Gene and cell therapy: Creation of a hybrid (genetic and protein) preventive vaccine based on modified AAV vectors

Scientific lines

  • Creation of a hybrid (genetic and protein) preventive vaccine based on modified AAV vectors.
  • The group has experience in designing and using viral vectors for various therapeutic applications that we believe could be used as a platform for creating new hybrid (genetic and protein) preventive vaccines, in this case for COVID-19.

Group leader

  • Barquinero Mañez, Jordi 

Main researchers

  • Barquinero Mañez, Jordi
  • Chillon Rodriguez, Miguel
  • Anguela Martínez, Xavier

Host-pathogen interactions

Scientific lines

  • Identification of target cells and their SARS-CoV-2 entry receptors in the human lung (which could be extended to other primary cells or tissues).
  • Effect of local conditions and immune mediators (i.e. IFNs, IL-6, IL-1b, TNFa, etc.) on receptor expression and SARS-CoV-2 entry.
  • Identification of therapeutics to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 interaction/entry in the human lung (and potentially other primary cells or tissues).
  • Identification of immune correlates of protection in people with mild infection (neutralizing antibodies, ADE, tissue resident T cell memory).

Main researchers

  • Barquinero Mañez, Jordi 

Investigadors principals

  • Barquinero Mañez, Jordi
  • Chillon Rodriguez, Miguel
  • Anguela Martínez, Xavier
  1.  

Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone system in COVID-19

Scientific lines

  • Analyse the RAAS pathway state in COVID-19 patients.
  • Study the influence that ACEi/ARBs may have on ACE2 expression in different tissues (kidney, lung, heart) in humans, in animal models and in cellular models.

Group leader

  • Soler Romeo, Maria Jose 

Main researchers

  • Soler Romeo, Maria Jose
  • Jacobs Cachá, Concepció
  • Serón Micas, Daniel
  • Trilla Herrera, Enric
  • Rosado Rodríguez, Joel
  • Genesca Ferrer, Meritxell
  • Buzón Gómez, María José
  • Ribera Sole, Aida
  • Benito Villabriga, Begoña
  • Hernández González, Manuel
  • Ferrer Costa, Roser
  • Román Broto, Antonio

Block B: Non-molecular / Non-cellular / Non-mechanistic

SARS-CoV-2: Microbiological diagnosis, seroprevalence of the infection, genetic characterisation and development and vaccine

Scientific lines

  • Molecular epidemiology, surveillance and monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks (Dr Andrés Antón).
  • Variability of SARS-CoV-2 (Dr Josep Quer).
  • Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Catalonia (Dr Juliana Esperalba).
  • Vaccine with VLPs against SARS-CoV-2 (Dr Joan Joseph / Dr Narcís Saubí).

Group leader

  • Antón Pagarolas, Andres 

Main researchers

  • Antón Pagarolas, Andres
  • Pumarola Suñé, Tomàs
  • Quer Sivila, Josep
  • Esperalba Esquerra, Juliana
  • Sulleiro Igual, Elena
  • Rando Segura, Ariadna
  • Joseph Munné, Joan
  • Andrés Vargés, Cristina
  • Rodríguez Frias, Francisco
  • Cortese, Maria Francesca
  • Saubí Roca, Narcís
  • Piñana Moro, Maria
  • Silgado Gimenez, Aroa
  • Fernandez Naval, Candela
  • Guerrero Murillo, Mercedes
  • Garcia Cehic, Damir

SARS-CoV-2 infection among patients

Scientific lines

  • Factors associated with the clinical course of patients, including modifiable and non-modifiable factors. Regarding the modifiable factors, we will be studying pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.
  • Long-term complications. The acquisition of early and lifelong immunity following natural or artificial exposure is of paramount importance for the community-level dynamics of the illness.

Group leader

  • Sánchez Montalvá, Adrián 

Main researchers

  • Sánchez Montalvá, Adrián
  • Fernández Hidalgo, Nuria
  • Burgos Cibrian, Joaquin
  • Espinosa Pereiro, Juan
  • Salvador Velez, Fernando M
  • Pujol Borrell, Ricardo
  • Antón Pagarolas, Andres

TASK FORCE VH on COVID-19 Clinical Pharmacology Work Group

Scientific lines

  • Treatment with hydroxychloroquine is associated with a faster drop in positive PCR tests and a very pronounced improvement of symptoms in hospital workers with mild COVID-19 infections (without initial hospitalisation criteria).
  • Severity of patients with COVID-19 is associated with outpatient treatment with medicines that may worsen the illness through other, non-ACE2-receptor mechanisms.
  • Incidence, classes and severity of adverse reactions to medicines (ARMs) presented by patients hospitalised during the pandemic.
  • Collaborative international network of COVID19 cohorts for optimal treatment and prevention, Call Horizon2020 (H2020-SC1-PHE-Conronavirus-2020-2) proposal number 1010115994, proposal acronym: CONNECTION.
  • Covid-19 infection and medicines in pregnancy (CONSIGN), Proposal by the EU PE & PV Research Network under a Framework contract following procurement procedure EMA/2017/09/PE/11 (lot4). Study on impact of COVID-19 infection and medicines in pregnancy.

Group leader

  • Agustí Escasany, Maria Antònia 

Main researchers

  • Agustí Escasany, Maria Antònia
  • Diogène Fadini, Eduard
  • Danes Carreras, Immaculada
  • Vidal Guitart, Xavier
  • Sabaté Gallego, Mònica
  • Aguilera Martin, Cristina
  • Ballarin Alins, Maria Elena
  • Riera Arnau, Judit
  • Ribera Pascuet, Esteve
  • Sánchez Montalvá, Adrián
  • Cossio Gil, Yolima
  • Aller Hernández, Marta Beatriz
  • Gorgas Torner, Maria Queralt
  • Miarons Font, Marta
  • Far Ruíz, Marc
  • Aragón, Maria

Epidemiology and prevention of SARS-Cov-2 infection. Vaccines against SARS-Cov-2

Scientific lines

  • Infection prevention based on the availability of safe, efficacious and effective vaccines and prophylactic drugs against SARS Cov 2 infection.
  • SARS Cov 2 epidemiology and transmission dynamics in vulnerable populations (nursing homes, institutionalized populations, healthcare workers).

Group leader

  • Otero Romero, Susana 

Main researchers

  • Otero Romero, Susana
  • Martínez Gómez, Xavier
  • Rodrigo Pendás, Jose Angel
  • Uriona Tuma, Sonia Maria
  • Borras Bermejo, Blanca
  • Campins Martí, Magda
  • Llorente Parrado, Cesar
  • Esperalba Esquerra, Juliana
  • Antón Pagarolas, Andres
  • Soriano Arandes, Antoni
  • Melendo Perez, Susana
  • Almirante Gragera, Benito

Block C: COVID-19 in relation to a specific issue

Impact of COVID-19 on solid organ transplants

Scientific lines

  • Researching the effects of COVID-19 infection on patients receiving a solid organ transplant (SOT). Recipients of an SOT (kidney, lung, liver) share other characteristics, besides the condition of immunosuppression, which make them a group with its own features.

Group leader

  • López Meseguer, Manuel 

Main researchers

  • López Meseguer, Manuel
  • Campos Varela, Isabel
  • Moreso Mateos, Francesc
  • Esperalba Esquerra, Juliana
  • Gómez Olles, Susana

Paediatric COVID-19 research

Scientific lines

  • Study on the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 among paediatric patients (CO-PEDIA-CAT study).
  • Utility of SARS-CoV-2 treatments in paediatrics.
  • Study on multisystem inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19 in paediatrics.
  • Mother-child transmission of COVID-19 (together with Obstetrics groups).

Group leader

  • Soriano Arandes, Antoni
  •  

Main researchers

  • Soriano Arandes, Antoni
  • Melendo Perez, Susana
  • Martín Nalda, Andrea
  • Frick , Marie Antoinette
  • Rivière, Jacques
  • Soler Palacín, Pere
  • Campins Martí, Magda
  • Otero Romero, Susana
  • Esperalba Esquerra, Juliana
  • Sulleiro Igual, Elena
  • Antón Pagarolas, Andres
  • Colobran Oriol, Roger
  • Suy Franch, Anna
  • Camba Longueira, Fátima
  • Wörner Tomasa, Núria
  • Casquero Cossío, Alejandro
  • Rodríguez Losada, Olalla
  • González Peris, Sebastià
  • Velasco Puyó, Pablo

 

ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation)

Scientific lines

  • It was seen during the pandemic that ECMOs can rescue patients suffering from forms of hypoxaemia and/or shock that are resistant to conventional support measures.

Group leader

  • Riera del Brío, Jordi

Main researchers

  • Riera del Brío, Jordi
  • Argudo Serra, Eduard
  • Martinez Martinez, Maria
  • Diaz Lagares, Candido
  • Contreras Medina, Sofia
  • García Roche, Sandra
  • Rodríguez Lecoq, Rafael
  • Castro Alba, Miguel Angel

COVID-19 and neuromuscular disease

Scientific lines

  • Researching the appearance of secondary neuromuscular diseases in an infection of the peripheral nervous system by the virus, and the immunological response against the virus (e.g. post-COVID Guillain Barré and Miller Fisher syndrome).
  • Studying the exacerbations of pre-existing neuromuscular diseases, such as in patients with myasthenia gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other myopathies.
  • Identifying the consequence the anti-COVID-19 treatments administered to patients with neuromuscular diseases and other patients with prolonged stays in ICUs (neuromyopathy in critical patients).
  • Studying the impact on the clinical management of patients in neuromuscular units, owing to the change of the health system’s functioning (problems accessing the hospital for an appropriate follow-up, delays in diagnosing neuromuscular pathologies).
  • Identifying genetic susceptibility factors that predispose individuals to developing neuromuscular diseases associated with infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Studying how lockdown situations have a psychological impact that alters the quality of life of individuals affected by a neuromuscular disease.

Group leader

  • Juntas Morales, Raul

Main researchers

  • Juntas Morales, Raul
  • González Martínez, María Victoria
  • Palasi Franco, Antonio
  • Sánchez-Tejerin San José, Daniel
  • Salvadó Figueras, Maria
  • Vidal Taboada, José Manuel
  • Canovas Segura, Anna Belen

TASK FORCE VH on COVID-19 Cardiology Work Group

Scientific lines

  • Effect of renin-angiotensin complex inhibitor drugs on COVID-19 infection in patients with heart disease, diabetes or hypertension.
  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the care of patients with heart disease: current dynamics and future projections (IMPACAR).
  • Influence of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the development of cardiac arrhythmias in patients with structural cardiopathy using implantable cardiac devices.
  • Cardiovascular impact of COVID-19 infection over 1 year period. The aim is to monitor and record cardiovascular clinical events among this population over 1 year.
  • Morphological cardiac effects of COVID-19 infection detected through echocardiography with strain and cardiac magnetic resonance.
  • Long-term myocardiac fibrosis in COVID-19 patients. Calpain inhibition as an antifibrotic strategy. ACE-2 receptors play a key role in the pathogenesis of the virus. The disruption of these receptors causes cardiac remodelling in the long term, leading to hypertrophy and fibrosis, cardiac dysfunction and cardiac insufficiency. The new calpain inhibitors prevent fibroblast activation and interstitial collagen deposition and improve ventricular function in ACE-2-activation experimental models.
  • Therapeutic strategies for reducing secondary lesions in the COVID-19 inflammatory cytokine storm.

Group leader

  • Bañeras Rius, Jordi 

Main researchers

  • Bañeras Rius, Jordi
  • Clau-Terré, Fernando
  • García García de Acilu, Marina
  • Cossio Gil, Yolima
  • Aller Hernández, Marta Beatriz
  • Soler Romeo, Maria José
  • Ribera Sole, Aida
  • Rivas Gandara, Nuria
  • Inserte Igual, Javier
  • Rodríguez Sinovas, Antonio
  • Rodríguez Palomares, Jose Fernando
  • Ferreira González, Ignacio
  •  

Materno-foetal Medicine Research Group / COVID-19 and pregnancy

Scientific lines

  • Impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on pregnant women.
  • Impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the foetus during pregnancy.
  • Vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Group leader

  • Suy Franch, Anna

Main researchers

  • Suy Franch, Anna
  • Maiz Elizaran, Nerea
  • Garcia Ruiz de Gordejuela, Itziar
  • Rodó Rodríguez, Carlota
  • Fernández Hidalgo, Núria
  • Sacanell Lacasa, Judith
  • Balcells Ramirez, Joan
  • Sulleiro Igual, Elena
  • Navarro Jiménez, Alexandra
  • Ribes Bautista, Carmen
  • Frick , Marie Antoinette
  • Campins Martí, Magda

Block D: Cross-cutting issue

Data governance, standardisation and analysis

Scientific lines

  • Data governance.
  • Database standardisation and combination.
  • Harnessing databases.

Group leader

  • Sánchez Pla, Àlex
  •  

Main researchers

  • Sánchez Pla, Àlex
  • Mota Foix, Miriam
  • Pérez Hoyos, Santi

(Clinical and pre-clinical) molecular medical imaging and metabolomics studies

Scientific lines

  • (Clinical (PET/CT or SPECT/CT based) and pre-clinical (in any imaging discipline)) molecular medical imaging and metabolomics studies of any type of sample (plasma, serum, peripheral blood cells (RBC, PBMC, PMN…), tissue, stools, etc.) to:
    1. Find new diagnostic approaches (whether 100% imaging or through AI).
    2. New diagnostic-use biomarkers.
    3. New therapeutic targets.
    4. Studying the effects of the virus on the physiology and metabolism of certain organs or tissues.

Group leader

  • Herance Camacho, José Raul 

Main researchers

  • Herance Camacho, José Raul
  • Castell Conesa, Joan
  • Aguade Bruix, Santiago
  • Baguña Torres, Julia
  • Xiao, Xingpeng
  • Aparicio Gomez, Carolina
  • Ferrer Costa, Roser
  • Giralt Arnaiz, Marina

Block E: Seeking collaboration

Study of the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection on patients with multiple sclerosis or other phenotypes (optic neuromyelitis and MOG)

Scientific lines

  • Study of the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection on patients with multiple sclerosis or other phenotypes (optic neuromyelitis and MOG).

Group leader

  • Montalbán, Xavier 

ain researchers

  • Montalbán, Xavier
  • Arrambide, Georgina
  • Zabalza, Ana