You could say that medicine is in my blood. My father was a surgeon. My grandfather, Rafael Hill, was also a doctor. In the 1960s he founded the Evangelical Hospital in Montevideo.
I study medicine that literally runs in the blood. In this photo I am processing T cells from the blood of healthy donors to compare them with T cells from people with melanoma that are being treated with antibodies. The antibodies block PD1 – a protein that inhibits the immune response. Ultimately, my team and I want to find out if this immunotherapy, which we’ve applied successfully in animal models, will work in humans.
I did my PhD and postdoc in France before returning to Uruguay to launch my laboratory at the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo, where I work with a highly motivated team.
I met my wife, Mercedes Segovia, during my undergraduate education here in Uruguay. We’ve been together ever since — we moved to France together and made the decision to return to Uruguay together as well. She is an immunologist and we work closely together.
Uruguay poses more challenges to a researcher than Europe. Infrastructure, equipment, technology and financing can be difficult to access. Public investment in science is only about 0.4% of Uruguay’s gross domestic product. In France, that figure is around 2%.
In addition, the scientific community is quite small, sometimes lacking expertise in certain areas. But this gives us the opportunity to build bridges. My lab has healthy collaborations with others in Argentina and Brazil, for example.
I also founded a pharmaceutical start-up company with some partners, ARDAN Pharma. The goal is to bring the cancer immunotherapies that we have developed to the market.