The Federal Government Budgetary Institution of the Russian Federation Ministry of Healthcare N. F. Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology is one of Russia’s oldest scientific research centers, and it will celebrate its 130th anniversary in 2021. Its history is closely connected with the names of renowned scientists that created renowned schools of science, and areas of scientific activity, that are widely recognized both in Russia and abroad. In 1949, the center was assigned the name of the distinguished academician N.F. Gamaleya, a world-renowned Russian researcher, student of Pasteur, and an eminent example of the shining ‘Golden Age’ of that scientist. The center is a crucial institution involved in the production of preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic drugs. By the beginning of the 1960s, more than 70% of the bacteria-based drugs produced in the country were designed here.
The first director of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) N.F. Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology was the academician V.D. Timakov (1945–1953). After that, it was headed by: USSR AMS academician G.V. Vygodchikov (1954–1955); Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences academician S.N. Muromtsev (1956–1961); USSR AMS academician P.A. Vershilova (1961–1964); USSR AMS academician O.V. Baroyan (in 1961 and later in 1964–1979); USSR AMS corresponding member D.R. Kaulen (1979–1982): Russian Academy of Medical Sciences academician S.V. Prozorovskiy (1982–1997). Since 1997, Russian Academy of Sciences academician A.L. Gintsburg has been the center’s director.
The main scope of its activities includes solving fundamental research challenges in epidemiology, medical and molecular microbiology, infectious disease immunology, and biotechnology. These studies focus specifically on the general and specific patterns inherent in the spread and epidemic manifestations of infectious diseases; the structure and dynamics of infectious disease pathology among the population; the occurrence, functioning, and epidemic manifestation of natural foci for human diseases; the genetics, molecular biology, environments, and persistence of pathogenic microorganisms; the problems involved in general and infectious disease immunology, including immunoregulation and immune system adjustment; the methods and equipment used in diagnostic work and preventing infectious diseases; developing technologies to analyze and forecast infections of the processes involved in the mass spread of diseases protect the Russian population of Russia; biotechnology; nanotechnology; developing technology platforms to create new-generation vaccines.
The center’s history contains many distinguished achievements and discoveries that are recognized around the world.
Many years of research led to forming the creation virus-genetic theory for the origins of tumors. Immuno-oncology was founded after the discovery called “New pathogenic properties of oncogenic viruses” (L.A. Zilbert and co-authors, 1967).
The first carcinoembryonic antigen, alpha-fetoprotein, which was produced here, has found widespread applications in immunodiagnostics work on primary liver cancer and teratoblastomas: “The phenomenon of embryospecific protein synthesis by malignant tumors” (G.I. Abelev and co-authors, 1970).
These studies relate to stromal tissue in blood-making organs discovered with stem cells, the predecessors of bone marrow stroma (A.Ya. Fridenstein and co-authors).
The foundation of modern immunosorbent technologies was laid down (A.E. Gurvich and co-authors).
The scientists discovered the theory of marginotomy (the permanent shortening of telomeres during the cell cycle, which forms the basis of physiological cell ageing) which antedated the opening of telomerase and further studies on cell immortality mechanisms (A.M. Olovnikov).
The center’s scientists worked out a study on natural foci of human diseases, and discovered a number of new natural focus infections, studied the laws of functioning and epidemic manifestations for natural foci, and the peculiarities in the environments of the pathogens, carriers, and vehicles for infections (E.N. Pavlovsky and co-authors). Sapronoses were classified as a distinct category of infectious diseases, which opened a new chapter in general epidemiology and natural focus theory. The concept of random parasitism for human microorganisms and warm-bloodied animals was developed during this high-profile study. The scientists also confirmed the role of unicellular algae and protozoans as an independent vessel during the circulation the pathogens for these diseases.
A study about rickettsiae and rickettsial diseases was elaborated, which laid the foundation for rickettsiology as a scientific discipline that includes microbiology, the immunology and epidemiology of rickettsial diseases and methods to help diagnose and prevent them (P.F. Zdrodovsky and co-authors, I.V. Tarasevich and co-authors). A study on mycoplasms and L-shapes of bacteria was created. It opened a whole new area of focus for infectious pathology to study the persistence of microorganisms, its mechanisms, and its role in generating different forms of infectious processes (V.D. Timakov and co-authors, S.V. Prozorovsky and co-authors).
The center has worked out and successfully implemented a scientifically-based program for the global eradication of smallpox (V.M. Zhdanov and co-authors).
D.K. Lvov and co-authors worked out a scientifically based concept for the circulation of arboviruses in different climatic and geographic zones, and developed a unique method for ecological probing of territories.
Multiple years of research resulted in the discovery of totally new infections (legionellosis, ixodid borrelioses, Astrakhan spotted fever, circling diseases, new chlamydioses and mycoplasmoses). How the pathogens for these diseases circulate inside Russia was established, and new methods to diagnose and prevent them were designed.
Scientists at the institute established the capability of the influenza virus to cause slow infections with lethal outcomes resulting from the congenital infection of mammals — “The capability of the influenza virus to cause slow infection in mammal offspring” (1990).
The foundations of modern radiation and infectious immunology were laid down here. Scientists discovered the immune system mechanisms that ensure the body’s natural resistance to infections.
They designed immunoenzymometric test systems for the rapid diagnosis of brucelloses, rabbit disease, spotted fever, and pyocyanin infections. Molecular probes were produced for rapid testing on the pathogens for cholera, yersinioses, legionelloses, mycoplasms, and leptospiroses. Vaccines for the specific prevention of dysentery, typhoid fever, coxiellosis, pyocyanic infection, pertussis, brucellosis, rabbit disease, spotted fever, and leptospirosis were developed and perfected.
A system was validated to help prevent hospital-acquired infections at various inpatient facilities, and to reduce infant mortality rates due to infectious diseases. A systemic methodology for mathematic modelling was suggested to create the epidemiological models for infections caused by bacteria that may be transmitted to humans from human and non-human sources, and work forecasting epidemic processes is now ongoing.
High-profile data were produced to help preserve the deleterious activity performed by silent pathogenic bacteria in natural habitats. The mechanisms governing the molecular and genetic transition and preservation of this “non-cultivated” condition were revealed. Scientists established the factors that influence the reverse mutation of silent forms of bacteria to vegetative ones.
The world’s first medical interferons were produced here for treating influenza. The institute’s scientists took part in producing, testing, and putting into clinical practice the first domestically produced medical recombinant interferon, the reaferonum. Later, ointments, suppositories, and gels were developed that incorporate that (Viferon medication). They are now actively used in practical medicine. The institute developed, clinically tested, and has been producing for a number of years the world’s first complex natural interferon and cytokine medication: Leukineferon.
On the whole, the center has always been focused on ensuring the country’s biological security, and protecting the population from very dangerous and socially significant infectious diseases. The fundamental works produced by N.F. Gamaleya SRIEM, and implementing them at a practical level, represent an invaluable contribution to fighting smallpox, diphtheria, tularemia, tuberculosis, tetanus, brucellosis, legionellosis, rickettsioses, leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, whooping cough, intestinal, streptococcal and staphylococcal infections, influenza, herpes, and arbovirus infections.
The center’s history, from its very foundation to the present day, is a history of creating the cornerstone for infectious disease vaccine prevention, and developing, testing, and putting vaccines into clinical practice, some of which still don’t have any equivalents worldwide.
The last few years alone have seen the creation of unique vector vaccines against Ebola hemorrhagic fever, influenza, Middle East respiratory syndrome, and socially significant chlamydial diseases, as well as a new-generation vaccine against tuberculosis (antituberculosis recombinant subunit vaccine “GamTBvac”) and whooping cough (a living intranasal vaccine to prevent whooping cough “GamZhVK”), which incorporate an innovative technological platform of recombinant virus vectors.
The institute’s specialists created a medicine for the pathogenic treatment of septicemic conditions with various hemorrhagic fevers; they are now developing the medication to treat metabolic syndrome and adjust normal flora using derivative polyisoprenoids, a medicine with single domain antibodies to treat intoxication caused by botulotoxin, and a medicine with humanized monoclonal antibodies to help treat Ebola fever. Scientists are also clinically testing an antibacterial medication called fluorothiasinone, which is intended for treating diseases caused by multiple resistant hospital strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
In 2020, the institute’s subsidiary, Medgamal, created a set of reagents for the differential detection of the IgM antibodies to the Zika, dengue, West Nile, and Chikungunya viruses in human blood serum using enzyme immunoassay. Batch production on those has already begun.
Epidemiology, parasitology, infectious diseases
Ecology of pathogenic and opportunistic pathogens. Taxonomy and properties of causative agents of natural focal infections. Epizootology and epidemiology of mixed natural focal infections. Elimination of natural foci and prevention of natural focal diseases. Mathematical modeling and forecasting of mass epidemic processes. Epidemiology and prevention of nosocomial infections. Carriage of bacteria.
Medical microbiology, genetics and molecular biology of bacteria.
Pathogenic bacteria. L-form bacteria. Mycoplasma. Viruses. Phages. Molecular genetics of pathogenicity, vital activity and variability of pathogens of infectious diseases. Reparation, recombination, restriction and transcription processes of bacterial DNA. Cloning. Bacterial mutagenesis. Induced competence of bacteria. Mobile genetic elements. Bacterial toxins. Hemolysins. Endotoxins. Enzymes. Bacterial antigens. Chromatographic cleaning methods. Indication of causative agents, toxins and express diagnostics for infections. PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Construction of vaccine strains. New-generation DNA vaccines. Nanotechnology.
Cellular and humoral regulation of anti-infectious immunity. Immunological tolerance and immunosuppressive conditions. Immunomodulators in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Antiviral immunity. Intercellular interactions. Interferons. Interleukins. Cytokines. Biotechnology and development of immunotherapy drugs.
Main directions of research
Study of the ecological and molecular genetic foundations of the endemicity of infectious diseases.
Research on the problem of natural and man-made foci of human infectious diseases.
Epidemiology and molecular genetic monitoring of nosocomial infections.
Development of scientific foundations for non-specific prevention of infectious diseases.
Improvement of computer modeling methodology and forecasting of epidemic processes.
2. Fundamental and applied research on topical problems of medical microbiology, genetics and molecular biology of bacteria. Overseen by the director of the institute, Professor A.L. Ginzburg, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Study of the pathogenicity factors of microorganisms as the basis of the pathogenesis of infectious diseases in order to create new diagnostic and prophylactic drugs.
Study of the molecular-genetic basis of the carriage of bacteria.
Development of molecular genetic methods for the analysis of antibiotic resistance of pathogenic microorganisms.
Development of new principles for the construction of vaccine preparations based on gene immunization.
Development of theoretical foundations and methods, as well as assessment of the effectiveness of oligonucleotide therapy for infectious diseases.
3. Fundamental and applied research on topical problems of infectious immunology. Overseen by Deputy Director for Research S.B. Cheknyov, Doctor of Medicine.
Study of molecular and cellular mechanisms of natural immunity in bacterial and viral infections.
Study of network and equilibrium interactions in the immune system in normal conditions and during the infectious process.
Study of the mechanisms of tolerance and the occurrence of autoimmune reactions during the infectious process.
Comprehensive assessment of the functioning of the interferon system in normal and pathological conditions. Study of the role of interferons and associated cytokines in the formation and maintenance of nonspecific immunit
Development of new approaches to the study of the mechanisms of interaction between bacterial and eukaryotic cells during the development of chronic infections at molecular and submolecular levels.
Creation and clinical testing of highly effective diagnostic, prophylactic and therapeutic preparations based on the use of cutting-edge (including nano) technologies.