The Research Institute of Influenza in St. Petersburg is one of Russia’s leading research centers in the fields of molecular biology, epidemiology, clinical diagnosis of infections, treatment of viral infections, development of sensitive diagnostic reagents, and effective means for public antiviral protection. The institute reports that its principal activities include “exploration of molecular-genetic and phylogenetic features of prevailing and newly emerging viruses, identification of viral genetic determinants, and forecasting of evolutionary variability of influenza and other viral agents.”
For more than a decade, the institute has conducted investigations of carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials. It collaborates with other local research institutions through the Center on Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology. This center also coordinates activities of the Ioffe Physical Technical Institute, the Institute of Problems of Mechanical Engineering, and the Bioengineering Center, together with St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University.
Internationally, since 1971 the institute has served as the World Health Organization reference and surveillance laboratory for Russia, drawing on a network of 49 local and regional laboratories across the country. In addition, the institute is interested in markets for diagnostic reagent production, vaccine development, and production of drug-based therapies. In addition, it is interested in chemotherapy drugs, nanovaccines, drug nanocarriers, and antiviral and antibacterial drugs that are based on peptides and recombinant proteins.
Numerous projects have been carried out with U.S. collaborators. The areas of joint interest have included, for example, the following:
• Preclinical trials and testing of broad-spectrum, small-molecule, antiviral compounds, with General Research Laboratories, Inc.
• Investigations of siRNA as a broad-spectrum anti-influenza therapy, with General Research Laboratories, Inc.
• Acute respiratory infection and influenza surveillance and epidemiologist training, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the transfer of 12 Russian influenza strains.
• Development of prototype live-attenuated cold-adapted pandemic influenza vaccines based on avian strains, with the nongovernmental organization PATH Vaccine Solutions.
• Development of a DNA vaccine based on a series of eukaryotic expression plasmids encoding the fusion proteins containing epitopes of influenza, with Cure Laboratory, Inc.
As one current and future example of bioengagement, a joint project with CDC was initiated in 2011, with the intention of continuation until 2016, devoted to the enhancement of influenza surveillance capabilities of the institute. The initial activities have included the following:
• Antigenic and genetic analyses of viruses, which were isolated in Russia, in MDCK cells and chicken embryos.
• Determination of susceptibility of circulating viruses to antivirals, using fluorometric tests and M2 gene sequencing.
• Sentinel surveillance for SARI, to indicate the main groups of risk, determine the most pathogenic circulating influenza viruses, and evaluate vaccine effectiveness.
• Increase in capacity of the institute to identify novel influenza A viruses, with special attention to subtypes H5 and H7 viruses.
SOURCE: Research Institute of Influenza, May 2012.