Strategic lines

We aim for research excellence, based on a combined strategy that targets the eradication of HIV/AIDS and related diseases. Our research efforts focus on five main areas:

Further events

Chronology

From the beginning of the pandemic to today: key dates for IrsiCaixa and VIH/AIDS around the world.

HIV-1 infection begins to spread in central and western Africa due to transmission of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVcpz) from a subspecies of chimpanzees to humans.

20th Century

In June, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports five cases of pneumonia in Los Angeles homosexuals.

1981

In July, several cases of Kaposi's sarcoma (a skin cancer) accompanied by other opportunistic diseases are diagnosed in gay populations of San Francisco and New York. These cases are associated with a drastic reduction in CD4+ lymphocyte counts.

1981

A few months later, the first cases appear in Europe. The first patient in Spain is diagnosed at the Hospital Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona.

1981

The term "AIDS" (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is increasingly used to refer to these cases.

1982

Three HIV transmission routes are described: sexual, blood and mother-to-child.

1982

French virologists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, identify HIV as the cause of AIDS. Montagnier sends samples to the US scientist Robert C. Gallo, who corroborates the conclusion that HIV is the cause of AIDS.

1983

Actor Rock Hudson, the first public figure to admit to having AIDS, dies.

1985

ELISA begins to be used as the first virus detection test.

1985

The first antiretroviral, called AZT, is supplied. Despite its beneficial effects, however, it is not efficacious in controlling HIV over the long term.

1987

World AIDS Day is celebrated for the first time on 1 December.

1988

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, dies from AIDS.

1991

The red ribbon becomes an international symbol of the fight against AIDS.

1991

Obra Social "la Caixa" makes an initial financial contribution to the fight against AIDS that ultimately leads to the creation of IrsiCaixa.

1993

The IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute, located at the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona, is founded in 1995 with the support of Obra Social “la Caixa” and the Department of Health of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

1995

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) is established.

1996

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) dramatically lowers AIDS morbidity and mortality rates. In high-income countries, the disease becomes chronic rather than deadly.

1996

The CDC announces that the number of AIDS cases is falling for the first time, thanks to the combination therapy.

1997

IrsiCaixa consolidates research lines that include immunopathogenesis, resistance, new drugs and treatment strategies, and pharmacokinetics.

1998

VAX004 is tested as a prototype preventive HIV vaccine for the first time in a large-scale human study but fails to offer sufficient protection.

1998

In order to halt the pandemic in low-income countries, the UN includes universal access to antiretroviral treatment as one of its eight Millennium Development Goals.

2000

IrsiCaixa opens a new biosafety level 3 laboratory, one of the largest in Europe.

2001

IrsiCaixa opens up new lines of research into the hepatitis B and C and human papilloma viruses. IrsiCaixa becomes one of Europe’s reference laboratories (in the EuroSIDA network) for determining antiviral drug resistance.

2002

IrsiCaixa researchers demonstrate highly efficacious HIV transmission between CD4 T-cells.

2004

The HIVACAT AIDS vaccine research programme is created, co-directed by IrsiCaixa and the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona. Directed by Dr. Bonaventura Clotet and Dr. Josep Maria Gatell, HIVACAT is at the forefront of international research into the development of an AIDS vaccine.

2006

IrsiCaixa participates in the first large-scale genome study (published in Science) that identifies genomic factors implicated in HIV progression.

2007

IrsiCaixa researchers characterize virological synapses as the mechanism for HIV transmission between CD4 T-cells.

2007

Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

2008

The case of the “Berlin Patient” is published, referring to a HIV carrier who underwent a transplant of stem cells with a HIV-resistant mutation as treatment for leukaemia. Today this patient is receiving no antiretroviral therapy and is considered to be the only person who has ever been cured of the infection.

2008

Laboratoris Esteve and Fundació "la Caixa" join HIVACAT, together with the Fundació Clínic and the Generalitat of Catalonia departments of health and the economy.

2009

Tests on the RV144 vaccine demonstrate the provision of some protection against the virus but not enough for large-scale use.

2009

A study by IrsiCaixa in collaboration with Harvard University shows that the response of T-cells to specific epitopes can contribute significantly to controlling HIV infection.

2009

IrsiCaixa demonstrates that HIV-positive people on treatment continue to have minimal amounts of virus that continue to infect new cells. This ongoing viral replication helps to explain why antiretrovirals do not clear up an infection entirely.

2010

The mechanisms that determine that immune-discordant patients respond well to treatment but experience poor immune system recovery are identified.

2010

IrsiCaixa demonstrates that the presence of minority variants of drug-resistant HIV doubles the failure risk of antiretroviral treatment and establishes the need for patient management based on ultrasensitive resistance tests.

2011

Demonstrated, by means of a boosted flow technique developed in IrsiCaixa, is the presence of a specific response to HIV by T-cells in uninfected individuals with high exposure to the virus.

2011

From an analysis of data for some 1,000 individuals, IrsiCaixa identifies the virus areas most vulnerable to the T-cell response in people able to control infection without taking antiretroviral treatment. These data are subsequently used to design the HTI immunogen.

2011

IrsiCaixa discovers a molecule responsible for the spread of HIV in the body. Together with ICFO, it records the first live images of how HIV is introduced into immune system cells, used as a "Trojan horse” to spread the infection.

2012

The IrsiCaixa Microbial Genomics Group is created to conduct research into the intestinal microbiome and ageing.

2012

The Master’s in AIDS Pathogenesis and Treatment is inaugurated.

2012

The FDA approves Truvada antiretroviral drug as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at a high risk of infection.

2012

The Chair of AIDS and Related Diseases is created at the University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia, headed by Dr. Bonaventura Clotet.

2013

HIVACAT organizes the AIDS Vaccine 2013 conference, a key international conference dedicated exclusively to HIV vaccination.

2013

IrsiCaixa researchers describe, for the first time, the transmission of a HCV variant that is resistant to direct-action antivirals.

2014

An IrsiCaixa research group describes the molecular mechanisms that regulate the activity of restriction factor SAMHD1 by associating control of the host cell cycle with HIV replication.

2014

IrsiCaixa identifies new genes associated with better or poorer progression of HIV infection.

2014

IrsiCaixa, in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma, identifies the nature and scope of T-cell epitopes present in HIV-infected cells for the first time. HIV infection is demonstrated to induce responses to many more epitopes than previously thought.

2014

IrsiCaixa’s Office of Research and Innovation Management is created.

2014

IrsiCaixa researchers participate in the first transplant of HIV-resistant umbilical cord stem cells in a patient who also has lymphoma. The goal of eradicating HIV is achieved, but the man dies from cancer after three months.

2015

IrsiCaixa joins the WHO Steering Group on HIV drug resistance.

2015

The first IrsiCaixa spin-off, Aelix Therapeutics SL, is created, funded by Ysios Capital, Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JJDC, Inc. and Caixa Capital Risc. Its goal is the development of HTI, a therapeutic HIV vaccine developed by IrsiCaixa.

2015

The START (Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment) study shows that starting antiretroviral therapy immediately after diagnosis reduces AIDS morbidity and mortality. The WHO changes its guidelines to recommend immediate treatment worldwide.

2015

Pre-clinical HTI testing in animals yields promising results for early trials in humans.

2015

IrsiCaixa identifies, for the first time, T-cell responses to epitopes encoded in the opposite direction to the viral genome. Most infected individuals have these highly conserved regions, which can be considered as targets for inclusion in future HIV vaccines based on T-cells

2015

IrsiCaixa publishes the first results demonstrating that HIV infection decreases human microbiome diversity.

2016

AlbaJuna Therapeutics SL is created as the second IrsiCaixa spin-off, funded by Grifols. Its goal is to develop modified antibodies that neutralize and destroy HIV.

2016

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Bonaventura Clotet: a life dedicated to the fight against AIDS

"We have seen the beginning of an epidemic, we have done our bit to stop it being mortal and we hope to contribute to eradicating it."

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Master in AIDS Pathogenesis and Treatment

Highly personalized training aimed at launching a research career in virology and HIV/AIDS

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Innovation

At IrsiCaixa we work to expand our research into new biomedical areas of benefit for the entire global population.

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Do community

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) facilitates dialogue between our researchers and the community affected by HIV

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Irsi Caixa

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Obra Social - Fundació 'La Caixa' Generalitat de Catalunya - Departament de Salut

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