Professor Paula Kavathas received her Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin Department of Genetics in 1980. At Wisconsin she worked with Dr. Robert DeMars, a pioneer in the genetics of X chromosome inactivation and Chlamydia trachomatis genetic sexual exchange. At Wisconsin she discovered the HLA-DP gene and used x-rays to develop a set of deletion-mutant cell lines for genetic analysis of the HLA region. She then went on to a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University with Dr. Leonard Herzenberg, the inventor of flow cytometry. She developed a novel approach for cloning genes for cell surface proteins and cloned the gene for the T lymphocyte cell surface protein CD8.
At Yale she continued her studies on CD8 defining regulatory elements for the CD8 genes and determining the contact surfaces and amino acids responsible for CD8 receptor interaction with other proteins. Most recently, she is developing an “enhanced” CD8 protein for potential use in immunotherapy to make T cells more potent at killing tumor cells. She also is characterizing the human immune response to Chlamydia trachomatis for vaccine development and is studying mechanisms by which Chlamydia thwarts host immune responses.
In 1980, most female postdoctoral fellows considered a faculty position at a major research university incompatible with raising a family. Dr. Kavathas decided to try and change that tradition. She has two daughters in college, an enthusiastically supportive husband, and has been at Yale since 1986.