MCA Research Laboratory

The MCA Virology and Immunology Research Laboratory (MCA Lab) and its team of researchers have been at the forefront of innovative research through laboratory-based pathogenesis and women’s health studies, vaccine studies, Phase I, II, and III clinical treatment trials, pharmaceutical studies, and investigator-initiated studies.

The MCA lab is a Biosafety Level 2+ laboratory and is certified and participates in proficiency testing via:

  • NIH DAIDS Virology Quality Assurance, VQA
  • NIH DAIDS Immunology Quality Assurance, IQA, (PBMC Cryopreservation and Immunophenotyping)
  • Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, CLIA
  • California Department of Health Services
  • College of American Pathology


Dr. Kovacs’ research focuses on translational studies that include:

  • Understanding mechanisms involved in mother-to-child and sexual transmission of viral infections
  • Study of viral-host interactions impacting immune dysfunction due to HIV, hepatitis C (HCV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections
  • Studies assessing immune activation in HIV and role of viral coinfections, genetics, and the impact on aging
  • Investigating the long-term effects of injection drug use, HIV, HCV and the impact of HCV cure on immune activation and liver fibrosis in aging women
  • Assessing host genetic factors that influence immune changes during chronic viral infections
  • Evaluating role of innate and adaptive immunity in HIV/HCV disease progression

The MCA Lab has considerable experience in developing assays for epidemiologic and treatment studies including HIV and HCV diagnostics, PCR-based assays, advanced flow cytometry, cell sorting, and antigen stimulation studies using multi-color flow cytometry. State-of-the-art technology and specialized software are utilized for complex investigations into gene expression and pathways of growing interest.

MCA’s Natural History and Long-Term Health Outcomes Study for MCA patients includes a biorepository representing over 2,000 patients that has formed the basis for many faculty, student, resident, and fellow projects resulting in independent funding and numerous publications.


The MCA Lab also provides standardized processing and isolation of viable peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) as well as processing and storage of plasma, serum, and other specimens from study participants. Specimens are used in functional, descriptive, molecular, and proliferative assays, as well as for viral cultures. Currently, the MCA Lab supports IMPAACT, ACTG, PHACS, NICHD, pharmaceutical, and investigator-initiated studies.

An established specimen repository that includes aliquots of viable and non-viable PBMC, plasma, serum, and other biological specimens is maintained for current and future research. High-capacity, alarm-monitored, liquid nitrogen and ultra-low freezers accommodate all specimen types. A comprehensive digital specimen inventory software is used to manage the repository. Electronic lab notebooks are used to document research experiments and manage research data.

MCA Laboratory Personnel

Andrea Kovacs, MD, is the Laboratory Director. She is responsible for the overall operation and administration of the laboratory and is the CLIA Clinical Consultant. Dr. Kovacs is a Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology with over 25 years of experience in research laboratory management.

Phone: (323) 865-1585

Patricia Anthony, CLS, MT (ASCP), is the Laboratory Manager with >20 years of clinical laboratory and 13 years of research lab experience. She is responsible for day-to-day laboratory operations and reporting test results. She maintains Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) and MT (ASCP) licenses. Her expertise includes clinical flow cytometry, molecular diagnostics, hematology, chemistry, repository management, specimen processing, and biological substance shipping.

Phone: (323) 865-1690

Jiaao Xu, MBBS, is a Research Associate with >20 years of research experience at the MCA Lab. He provides expertise in molecular and specialized testing for HIV, HCV, CMV and other viruses, including DNA/RNA qualitative/quantitative PCR, and sequencing/genotyping.

Phone: (323) 865 1694

Ewa Kazub,  is a Clinical Laboratory Technician with 6 years of front office medical experience as a certified Medical Assistant and Phlebotomist and 13 years of research lab experience. She is responsible for specimen processing,  data entry, biological substance shipping, and instrument maintenance.

Phone: (323) 865-1691

Kerry Meekin, MPH, is a Research Laboratory Specialist with >3 years of business management experience, 9 years of lab experience, and 5 years of research lab experience. She is responsible for advanced flow cytometry, molecular diagnostics, repository management, inventory, billing, specimen processing data entry, biological substance shipping, and instrument maintenance.

Phone: (323) 865-1693

Contact Us

The MCA Lab is located at:

Bishop Medical Teaching and Research Building (BMT)
1333 San Pablo Street
USC Health Science Campus, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Staff can be reached at 323-865-1690.

Prospective student lab members: We invite motivated medical, graduate and undergraduate students with previous experience in molecular biology, cell biology, or flow cytometry to apply for research opportunities in the lab by contacting Dr. Kovacs and the laboratory manager.