Philipp Gritsch

Throughout my academic career, I have been excited about synthesizing biologically active molecules and their application. I obtained my doctorate degree from the Leibniz University in Hannover under the guidance of Prof. Tanja Gaich, specializing in the total synthesis of natural products. Subsequently, I was a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Paul Kosma at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU Wien) where I worked in the field of synthetic carbohydrate chemistry. Upon receiving an Erwin Schrödinger fellowship I went on to work with Prof. Richmond Sarpong at UC Berkeley, where I synthesized complex molecules and developed new synthetic methods towards medically relevant molecular structures. 

My research is focused on carbohydrates and how they interact with regulatory pathways of the human body. 

Send me an email in case there are questions, you would like to collaborate or want to work in the lab with me: philipp.gritsch (at)

List publications:


Bacterial Carbohydrates and the Human body

As a scientist I am interested in the interplay of molecules and organisms and how recognition events can influence regulatory pathways. Especially the world of parasites and the molecules they use to interact with the human body is of particular interest to me. In this regard, I have initiated a research project that focuses on sugars (or carbohydrates) and their role in the immune system.

The surface of all cells, whether bacterial, plant or animal, are covered in complex sugar containing structures. There they are involved in a range of biological processes including cell-cell communication, pathogen recognition and cell-protein interaction. Examples of the building blocks of these structures which are called ‘glycans’, are the nonulosonic acids (NulO), a group of sugars that include the sialic or neuraminic acids (Neu). They are the only nine-carbon sugars found in prokaryotes and vertebrate animals; as terminal ‘charged’ modifications of glycans, they are often involved in host-pathogen interfaces, including viral infections, as well as in recognition and regulatory events.

Whereas human and other animals display only a few substituents of Neu such as acetyl (Ac) or glycolyl (Gc) moieties, bacterial pathogens have a wider range of NulOs, including uniquely bacterial forms such as Legionanimic acid (Leg) and Pseudaminic acid (Pse).
Bacterial NulOs may help pathogens evade the human immune system due to molecular mimickry of Neu. Indeed, a number of multi antibotic-resistant bacteria display NulOs on their glycans, such as Campylobacter jejuni and Helicobacter pylori, Tannerella forsythia, Acinetobacter baumannii and Enterobacter species. For these micro-organisms, Pse and Leg are are instrumental for their  pathogenicity, however, only few reports detail the exact molecular interaction between mammalian immuine pathways and bacterial NulOs.

This research focuses on the synthesis of NulOs to advance biological research which has been hampered by lack of sufficient material. This project proceeds in collaboration with Prof. Christina Schäffer from BOKU Wien and has already yielded new synthetic methodologies and will detail on a molecular level how pathogens use nonulosonic acids to aid in infiltrating and survival in the human body.