Since its foundation, the Institute of Microbiology and Virology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine has been remarkably rich in outstanding personalities. First of all, the Institute was lucky to have Academician Danylo Zabolotny (1866 – 1929) as one of its founders and the first Director. He was a universally known scientist, a founder of epidemiological science and of a number of new domains in microbiology. In his private life Academician Zabolotny was an extremely modest person; being a universally recognized scientist, an academician and a member of the Government, he still considered himself a villager of his native settlement of Chobotarka (now – the village of Zabolotne, Kryzhopil District, Vinnytsia Region). A talented student of Ilya Mechnikov, the first Noble Prize laureate in Medicine known as the ‘cultivator of bacteriology’ in Russia, Danylo Zabolotny was a courageous scientific organizer who by 1928 had founded several scientific research institutes and departments. In May 1928 Danylo Zabolotny was elected the President of the All- Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. On May 31, 1928 by the Governmental Resolution the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology (now – the Institute of Microbiology and Virology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) was opened in Kyiv.
Academician Zabolotny was the Institute’s Director for less than two years, because on December 15, 1929, he died from pneumonia. But the impetus he gave to the development of the Institute, his principles of scientific research and his attitude to his colleagues have lasted till nowadays. D. Zabolotny’s precepts had been realized by other prominent scientists. During the 80 years of the Institute, the following scientists had worked as Directors: Mykhailo Shtutser (1930); Mykola Stadnichenko (1930 – 1933); Hnat Ruchko, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (1933 – 1937); Petro Marusenko (1937 – 1941); Academician Viktor Drobotko (1944 – 1962); Semen Moskovets, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (1962 – 1971); Dmytro Zatula (1971 – 1977); Academician Valeriy Smirnov (1977 – 2002) and Academician Valentyn Pidgorskyi (since 2003).
One can assert that the Institute’s stability is a proof of perfect selection of top managers within the system of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU) and of a high level of moral climate in the Institute at all times. All the principles of interpersonal relations laid by D. Zabolotny – tactfulness, humanism, high exactingness and mutual assistance have contributed to the very high level of research peculiar to the Institute, and its high authority among similar scientific institutions both in the former USSR and abroad.
Winning of such authority has become possible due to such worldwide known scientists as Academician M. Kholodny (worked at the Institute in 1936 – 1938); M. Pidoplichko, Corresponding Member of NASU (1931 – 1975); V. Bilai, Corresponding Member of NASU (1935 – 1994); Academician B. Isachenko (1944 – 1948); Academician M. Sirotinin (1944 – 1948); L. Rubenchik, Corresponding Member of NASU (1944 – 1975); Academician S. Gershenzon (1963 – 1968); N. Diachenko, Corresponding Member of NASU (1963 – 2003); Yu. Malashenko, Corresponding Member of NASU (1959 – 2006). Recently Corresponding Members of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine are K. Andreyuk, B. Matselyukh, I. Skrypal’, N. Kovalenko, and M. Spivak, G. Iutynska who organize researches in highly demanded directions of microbiology and virology.
In 1937 it was a target of national significance to reveal the etiology of the disease that had caused mass loss of horses in the western areas of Ukraine and Belarus. The task had been set to the scientists of our Institute: P. Marusenko (Director, Head of the team), V. Drobotko (Scientific Supervisor), and microbiologists P. Yatel, D. Kudlai, B. Eisenman, M. Kolesnyk, M. Pidoplichko and B. Kagan. The complex approach to solve this task gave positive results the following year: the causes of the disease were established, and the disease itself was liquidated. On February 12, 1939, all the above scientists were awarded with orders for their success. It was the first case of rewarding the Ukrainian scientists with high state decorations.
In the postwar years, upon returning from evacuation, the Institute started to research into a possibility of production of antibiotics from microorganisms, microscopic fungi and plants. Studies of new antimicrobial medicines were expanded due to the use of alive bacterial cultures. This new approach, when some microbes were being used against other microbes to cure infectious diseases, developed significantly at the Institute. Soon over a dozen of probiotic preparations were developed to cure human, animal and birds’ dysbacterioses and plant diseases.
With L.Rubenchik’s arrival at the position of the Head of the Department of General and Soil Microbiology in 1944, research in ecology and geochemical activity of microorganisms started. Since then, the studies have been successfully going on. Soil microorganisms were studied at the population and coenotic levels to reveal their interactions with plants of different agrocenoses, many interesting data were obtained. Microbial polysaccharides were observed to be able to exert bioprotective effect upon humic acids, thereby positively affecting the soil’s humus balance. Mechanisms of interrelation between micro- and macrosymbionts at early recognition stages were revealed. A collection of streptomycetes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria as the basis for preparations for plant-growing was developed.
Since the 1960’s the Institute has been developing a new direction of study of litho- and heterotrophic bacteria and micromycetes as biocorrosion factors. The biogenic origin of corrosion of underground metal and concrete buildings was established; its main agents are thiobacteria and sulphate-reducing bacteria (K. Andreyuk). With machine-building, optic, radio-, telecommunications, etc. enterprises, and in depositories of cultural valuables, it is microscopic fungi that are the main destruction factor for the equipment, books, canvases, etc. The problem of ‘microbial corrosion of industrial materials and development of prevention methods’ proves inexhaustible and endless. That is why, certain tasks on this problem are still being dealt with nowadays. The departments of Technical Microbiology sector have studied many microorganisms of different taxonomic groups: yeasts, corynebacteria and lactobacteria, methane- and methanol-oxidizing bacteria, etc. Profound research on the problem of microbiological synthesis of proteins from mineral oil, natural gas and other non-food raw hydrocarbons has been conducted. Many biotechnologies to obtain different preparations and food products have been developed (Ye. Kvasnikov, V. Pidgorski, Yu. Malashenko, N. Kovalenko).
In 1954, by V. Drobotko’s initiative, research of plant viruses started at the Institute. In 1960 the Department of Virology headed by S. Moskovets was organized. The research in virology developed so fast that in 1963 the Sector of Virology headed by S. Gershenzon was founded, with the Institute renamed into that of Microbiology and Virology of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. During functioning of the Sector of Virology (1963 – 1967), research of plant, animal and microorganisms’ viruses had been developing. That time the contemporary base for the virological research was formed; the pathogens of most important Ukrainian crops were revealed and studied, with their structure, physical-chemical and antigenic properties, strain composition and virus-cell interrelations researched. Viruses of cyanobacteria, fungi and insects were studied; methods and recommendations to fight viral diseases were developed. Recently scientists of the Institute study plant, microorganisms’ viruses and human and animal adenoviruses.
Under guidance of N. Diachenko, complex study of the components of adenoviruses and peculiarities of expression of their genomes was conducted. Lymphotropism of adenoviruses was established; first model of mixed infection of lymphocytes with adenoviruses, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Epstein-Barr virus of the herpes virus family was developed, and mutual viral interference observed. For the microorganisms’ viruses, the following were established: a possibility for stabilization of their lysogeny; prevention of phagolysis of industrially valuable microorganisms by them; module structure of moderate Erwinia phages, and the latter’s interrelation with other episome elements, bacteriocynes, critical plasmids, and relation with pathogenicity.
Original technologies of production of human and animal gamma-interferons were developed (M. Spivak). Significant results of the Institute in the past marked the base for its future development. The experience of the Institute’s scientists have caused the necessity for immediate solution of many theoretical issues related with the development of new and perfection of the existing technologies, environmental protection and rehabilitation, solution of microbiological and virological problems raised by agriculture, industry and health protection. Due to these, a notable attention should be paid to the research aimed at studying of the mechanisms of biological activity of microorganisms and viruses as the basis for development of new biotechnologies to make the required producers, substances and products so much needed by the humans. Taking into account the catastrophic environmental condition in Ukraine, contamination of the soils, rivers and other water basins with radionuclides, chemicals and other anthropogenic pollutants, it is necessary to immediately develop the research aimed at elaboration of microbiological means of treatment of the soils, industrial wastewaters and crops from contamination, with simultaneous release of valuable components and metals to be further used in different branches of national economy.
Study of the primary structure of genomes, metagenomic (genomics of certain ecosystem’s associations) analysis of microorganisms and viruses must become the basis for improvement of taxonomy and development of new approaches to control their vital functions. Traditionally, microorganisms must be studied as promising producers of antibiotics, enzymes, vitamins, lectins, polysaccharides, etc. It is the National Collection of Microorganisms and Viruses founded by the Institute is the basis for that. Today, the Collection contains over 20,000 strains and species of microorganisms that may become the basis for elaboration of newest medicines or food preparations, molecular- biological and gene-engineering research.
The work on cytology and ultra-structure of microorganisms’ cells is expected to expand. A peculiar attention will be paid to the research of the structure of cell walls, their exterior membrane and glycocalix to learn the interrelation mechanisms between microorganisms’ cells and human, animal and plant tissues and different surfaces. As far as Ukraine is in an acute need of energy sources, the microbiologists of the Institute have to actively contribute to the solution of this problem by development of energy production technologies from renewable sources.
The team of the Institute of Microbiology and Virology of the NASU has a big potential to solve all these problems. Traditionally, fundamental studies of the Institute are closely connected with their practical implementation in health protection, agricultural production and almost all branches of national economy where these developments are widely used. For the last years, 7 licenses for different biotechnologies have been sold abroad. For the close connection of its fundamental studies with their practical implementation and training of high-quality personnel, in 1978 the Institute was awarded with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. It was the only case of such rewarding among all academic microbiological institutions of the former USSR.