U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Paul Kovac

 Contact Info

Tel: 301-496-3569
Email: kovac@mail.nih.gov

 Select Experience

  • Senior InvestigatorLaboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry, NIDDK, NIH1983-present
  • Group LeaderBachem, Inc.1981-1982
  • Senior ScientistInstitute of Chemistry, Slovak Academy of Sciences1969-1981
  • Post-docPurdue University, Department of Biochemistry1967-1968
  • Ph.D.Institute of Chemistry, Slovak Academy of Sciences1967
  • M.S.Slovak Technical University1962

 Related Links


Paul Kovac, Ph.D.

Section Chief, Carbohydrates SectionLaboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry
  • Chemistry/Chemical Biology

Research Summary

Research Goal

The purpose of my research is to develop conjugate vaccines for infectious bacterial diseases from synthetic carbohydrate antigens that are free from undesirable properties bacterial vaccines often have.

Current Research

Our primary focus is to further the development of conjugate vaccines from synthetic carbohydrate antigens. Ultimately, we would like to develop reliable protocols for preparation of neoglycoconjugates, which could become substitutes for traditional vaccines based on antigens present in attenuated cells. Such vaccines are often pyrogenic or have other undesirable effects. We use synthetic oligosaccharides that mimic the structure of polysaccharides present on the surface of bacterial pathogens as antigenic components of our immunogens. Since there is virtually an infinite number of choices of architectonic details that a synthetic neoglycoconjugate can incorporate, part of our work involves studies of the effects of variables such as size of the carbohydrate antigen, type of linker, linking chemistry, type of carrier, etc., upon immunogenicity and protective capacity. In addition to obtaining potent immunogens, we expect our studies to result in findings of general utility in synthetic vaccine preparation. Our approach involves five stages:

  1. synthesis of fragments of antigenic polysaccharides and the deoxy and deoxyfluoro analogs of those fragments
  2. studies of binding the above ligands with antibodies to the native antigen and identification of critical hydrogen bonding interactions
  3. identification of the immunologically dominant oligosaccharide sequence in the antigenic polysaccharide
  4. chemical conjugation of such fragment(s) to suitable carrier(s), to obtain neoglycoconjugates
  5. probing the antigenicity, immunogenicity, and protective capacity of neoglycoconjugate(s)

Our section has studied the interaction of carbohydrate antigens and antibodies for many years using the above approach. As a result, we have been able to obtain a great deal of detailed information on binding atthe molecular level. Following the same concept, groundwork was laid for development of immunogens for Shigelladysenteria type 1. The current objective of our work is development of synthetic vaccines for cholera and anthrax.

In addition, we often engage in collaborative research, within the United States and internationally,with universities and other scientific institutions.

Applying our Research

This research will help the public as safer vaccines translate into improved public health.

Need for Further Study

Further areas of study include identification of the optimal structure of the conjugate vaccine and immunization protocol that would deliver the amount of antigen necessary to elicit protective level of antibodies.