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OUR TEAM

MELISA is a Biotechnology Center researching maternal and fetal health ultra-early biomarkers and developing prenatal therapy for Trisomy 21. Founded in 2011 by academics led by the vision of Dr Elard Koch, an experienced and awarded epidemiologist with a prolific scientific career.

The Institute is currently running a number of research programs in three major areas relevant for Human Life Sciences: Epidemiology & Public Health, Human Reproduction & Biomarkers, and Prenatal Medicine.

MELISA Institute was founded in 2011 as a private academic research initiative supported primarily by philanthropic funding channeled through a non-profit foundation (http://www.fisarchile.org) and some funding from other sources, such as standard research grants. Since 2019, the MELISA PROTEOMICS & GENOMICS platform has been incorporated to provide technological services to external researchers in mass spectrometry, proteomics, transcriptomics and bioinformatics.

MELISA is an acronym derived from Molecular Epidemiology for Life Science ReseArch. MELISA Institute’s research model involves the recruitment, support and participation of other external researchers who collaborate in the preparation of articles to be sent to scientific journals recognized in the academic world. In addition, MELISA incorporates a communications and public relations department that allows for more accurate and extensive distribution of the key findings related to published research articles.

 

Head of Research

Dr. ELARD KOCH, PhD
 
Elard S. Koch, PhD is a senior Epidemiologist at MELISA Institute, based in the city of San Pedro de la Paz, Concepción, Chile.
 
Dr. Koch completed much of his training as an Epidemiologist and Researcher at the School of Medicine of the University of Chile and became the Head of Research at the Department of family medicine. First Koch’s mentor was Dr. Aída Kirschbaum Kasten, a leading immunologist and epidemiologist in infectious diseases with whom he obtained his Master’s of Science Degree. Koch had a strong interest and training in biostatistics and published a series of theory articles on the application of popperian logic models to clinical epidemiology. He won a scholarship to carry out his PhD under the guidance of Dr. Tomás Romero Carvajal cardiologist and professor of the University of San Diego, California. Dr. Romero was his mentor in epidemiology, clinical studies, and basic science of cardiovascular diseases. Koch performed several investigations on physiology of exercise, high blood pressure, heart rate variability and cardiovascular risk factors, and founded the SFP study (San Francisco Project), a prospective observational cohort of Chilean population followed for 15 years. The SFP study was inspired by the original Framingham heart study and had a remarkable scientific production with numerous publications and awards, in addition to the training of various young researchers in epidemiology. He continued his postdoctoral training with Dr. John Thorp Jr., Professor of Maternal and Child Health at the Gillings School of Public Health from University of North Carolina, by conducting two large natural population experiments on maternal health determinants in Chile and Mexico.
 
Strongly attracted to developmental biology and maternal-fetal health, Koch and other academics founded MELISA Institute, a biotechnology center to research ultra-early biomarkers of maternal and fetal health and to develop a prenatal therapy for Trisomy 21.
 
Koch has 5 children, and 1 granddaughter. He is an amateur musician and Prog Rock (Progressive Rock) lover.
 

Subdirectors

 

Cristián Vargas
Bachelor of Medical Surgery from the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción and Bachelor of Arts in Bioethics from the Ateneo Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
Nowadays, he is the Medical Deputy Director of MELISA Institute. He has held this position since August 2017.
He leads areas such as clinical protocol execution, medical genetics and proteomics services.
He has an extensive career in university teaching spanning more than 14 years, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in areas of health.
In 2010 he received the award Líderes del Sur for excellence and social commitment.
In 2015, he received the Human Life Promoters Award from the Rector of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Dr. Ignacio Sánchez.
 
Contact: cvargas@melisainstitute.org

Mauricio Hernandez
Biochemist and MSc in Microbiology. Mauricio received his bachelor’s and biochemistry degree in 2008 from the Universidad Austral de Chile. In addition, he received the MSc. degree in Microbiology in 2013 at the same house of studies.
Mr. Hernández has been head of the proteogenomics laboratory since August 2018. Previously, he served as a biochemist in activities related to molecular biology and biomolecules purification at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the Universidad Austral de Chile in 2010. Also as a professor at the Universidad Santo Tomas in the city of Valdivia, Head of subjects in the areas of Chemistry and Microbiology to careers related to the area of health, between 2011 and 2012. He then served as head of the proteomics laboratory of the AUSTRAL center at the Universidad Austral de Chile for 6 years, additionally as professor of proteomics to undergraduate and postgraduate courses in that study house.
Among its activities are the realization of services of protein purification, mass spectrometry, peptide synthesis, among other proteomic services, both to national and international institutions.
 
Contact: mhernandez@melisainstitute.org
 

 

 
Arantxa Escribano
Graduated in Bioethics from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome and has lived in Switzerland, Mexico, and Argentina, where she currently works.
She is the Public Information Officer at MELISA Institute, In addition, she leads institutional and public relations at Incluyendo México A.C., a civil-society organization with important connections with opinion leaders.
Arantxa is active in the media space in Argentina and writes in the magazine “Sembrar Valores.” She teaches “Leadership in Values” courses in companies, schools. Previously, she led the TV Show “Valor Agregado” on Telered and was a correspondent for Siete 24, where she covered summits and international events around the world.
 
Contact: aescribano@melisainstitute.org

Research Team

 

Profession: Biochemist
Institution: Universidad de Concepción
Functions and interests: Development of Biomarkers related to Mother-Child communication, cell cultures, nucleic acid extraction and Next Generation Sequencing.
 
Contact: falvarez@melisainstitute.org

Profession: Biochemist
Institution: Universidad Austral de Chile
Functions and interests: Development of Biomarkers related to Mother-Child communication, high performance proteomic analysis of human fluids, nucleic acid extraction and Next Generation Sequencing.
 
Contact: psaldivia@melisainstitute.org

 

Profession: Bioinformatics Engineer
Institution: Universidad de Talca
Functions and interests: Analysis and organization of proteomic and genomic data of fluids and human tissues through bioinformatics techniques.
 
Contact: gnourdin@melisainstitute.org

Profession: Laboratory Technician and Blood Bank
Institution: Instituto Profesional Virginio Gómez
Functions and interests: Sample handling and processing (maternal fluids).
 
Contact: econtreras@melisainstitute.org

Profession: Kinesiologist
Institution: Universidad de Chile
Functions and interests: Co-researcher in the area of Maternal Health; search, collection and creation of analytical and epidemiological databases
 
Contact: mbravo@melisainstitute.org
 

Profession: Doctor Specializing in Gynecology and Obstetrics
Institution: Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción- Specialty:  Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Functions and interests: Clinical protocol, down syndrome therapy coordinator, TRIC team researcher
 
Contact: jstecher@melisainstitute.org

Profession:  Matron, Licensed in Obstetrics and Childcare
Institution: Universidad de Concepción
Functions and interests: Clinical Sampling, patient education, entry of clinical information to databases, monitoring of protocol participants.
 
Contact: wgarin@melisainstitute.org

Profession: Nurse technician
Institution: INACAP
Functions and interests: Recruitment team, clinical sampling.
 
Contact: rabarzua@melisainstitute.org

Profession: MD, MSB.
Institution: Universidad Anahuac. Medical clerkship at The University of Miami School of Medicine – Jackson Health System.
Functions and interests: Medical and basic research, translational medicine and research databases.
 
Contact: shaddad@melisainstitute.org

 

Profession: Sociologist
Institution: Universidad del Salvador, Argentina. 
Functions and interests: Social Epidemiology
 
Contact: mcritto@melisainsitute.org

Profession: Graphic Designer and Visual Communication
Institution: Da Vinci, Primera Escuela de Arte Multimedial. Argentina
Functions and interests: Editorial Design, corporate identity, web and multimedia design.
 
Contact: jirala@melisainstitute.org 

Profession:  Lawyer
Institution: Universidad de Chile
Functions and interests: Issuance, formalization and execution of quotes and purchase orders, payment providers, among other functions.
 
Contact: vrampoldi@melisainstitute.org

Profession: Accountant Auditor
Institution: Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana
Functions and interests: Accounting, administrative and tax advice from MELISA Institute
 
Contact: cparraguez@melisainstitute.org