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Sandra Franco graduated in Biology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). She pursued doctoral studies as a member of the internationally recognized Viral Hepatitis group (Hospital Clínic i Provincial de Barcelona) led by Dr. Juan Carlos Sáiz, which she joined in 2000. Her research focused on the molecular biology of HCV in mono-infected individuals with varying degrees of liver fibrosis (hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis) and different responses to treatment with IFN/RBV. The outcome was five publications in internationally recognized scientific journals. At the end of 2001 she joined IrsiCaixa to continue her PhD research — into the NS3 protease region of HCV — in the HIV and HCV Genetic and Phenotypic Variability group led by Dr. Miguel Ángel Martínez. Awarded her PhD by the University of Barcelona (UB), she continued working in IrsiCaixa as a post-doctoral researcher, focusing particularly on the search for new HCV antiviral drugs (giving rise to a patent filed jointly with the Institut Químic de Sarrià (IQS)), quasispecies and rare HCV variants, HCV cell culture systems and, finally, the relationship between genetic single nucleotide polymorphisms and the development of liver disease in individuals co-infected with HIV and HCV.

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