In Moscow in 1891, inside the rooms of the Keller Apothecary on Myasnitskaya Street, F.M. Blumenthal opened his privately run Chemical Microscopy and Bacteriology Office, which later turned into the Doctor F.M. Blumenthal Private Chemistry and Bacteriology Institute. The institute’s objectives included doing different kinds of bacteriological, chemical, and other analyses, and producing titrants, cell culture media, and various chemical reagents. Besides those specialized departments (bacteriological and serodiagnostics), other departments existed that were not directly involved in diagnostic work: serum vaccine, chemical technology, agronomy, and disinfection departments. This was a diagnostic center that, in terms of its sweeping scope, far surpassed all of Russia’s other bacteriological institutes.
In 1904 in the F.M. Blumenthal Institute, a department opens up to produce therapeutic serums, and later on a stand-alone antigen (vaccine) department was spun off. The Institute’s headcount is soon more than 100 employees, and it occupies first place in Russia in terms of the quantity and product range of the drugs that it produces. The Institute sets up courses to train rural doctors in the practical skills involved in chemical bacteriology and other clinical research.
The widespread network of contacts that F.M. Blumenthal and his employees had with scientists abroad - Ehrlich, Morgenroth, Wright, Ulengut, and Wasserman - was of key significance for the activity performed by the institute.
In the spring of 1919, the Institute was nationalized, and it was dubbed the National (and later on Central) Bacteriological Institute. At that time, it was comprised of 5 departments: for serums, antigens, smallpox, diagnostic drugs, and analytics.
The activity done by the new Institute in 1919-1922 was confined to producing urgently needed serums and vaccines, doing a large quantity of diagnostic analyses, and doing research related to the demands of everyday, practical work. The scientific research work at the State Bacteriological Institute was linked extremely closely to industrialization.
In 1922, the Institute started to publish a journal called Hygiene and Epidemiology, which covered the issues involved in infectious diseases pathology.
In 1931, the Central Bacteriological Institute was unified with the Institute of Microbiology, and the epidemiology and disinfection departments at the Institute of Sanitary Hygiene. This resulted in creating the Central Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology (CIEM),
which had a tremendous range of objectives: working on the problems involved in general and specific epidemiology; addressing theoretical and practical challenges for microbiology, immunology, and virology; producing serums, vaccines, and other bacteria-based drugs to help diagnose, prevent, and treat infectious diseases; helping do anti-epidemic work and draft sanitary and epidemiological legislation; doing procedural supervision work for institutions in outlying regions and, in the end, training scientific personnel for the fields of microbiology and epidemiology.
The start of WWII caused the work done by the CIEM to take a sharp turn toward the defense industry. For the purposes of dispersing its personnel and equipment resources, two Institute branches were set up - one in Alma-ata and the other in Sverdlovsk; a large group of key scientists was sent to work in the Kazan Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Despite the difficulties it faced in wartime, and its geographic dissociation, the Institute managed to preserve a workforce solidarity, and keep working under common management as per standardized scientific and production schedules.
Notwithstanding the complexities inherent in the situation, the CIEM, even during the initial wartime period, increased its drug production by one-and-a-half times, and by 1944 it had increased that four times in comparison with 1940.
In 1945, owing to the fact that the Academy of Medical Sciences was set up, the issue arose about creating an academically-oriented scientific research institute that would be able to develop theoretical research at a high level in the field of infectious disease pathology, and elaborate the measures needed to combat infectious diseases, while simultaneously acting as the country’s leading center for theory and procedural guidelines in that field.
This institute was created in October 1945 by consolidating the scientific departments at CIEM, a system of laboratories run by the All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine (AUIEM), and the clinical research department at the S.P. Botkin Hospital.
Over the 1945-1948 time period, the production department at the CIEM continued to thrive on its own as the country’s largest scientific production organization, and in 1949 it joined forces with the research institute. This was dictated by the need to unite Moscow’s scientific workforce under one roof, managed by the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences (USSR AMS), that was involved in working on the critical theoretical and practical challenges faced by infectious disease pathology. This was how the USSR AMS Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology came into existence (USSR AMS SRIEM).
In 1949, the Institute 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. During the last years of his life (1936-1949), Nikolay Fedorovich was a laboratory director at the USSR AMS Institute of Experimental Medicine.
In 1966, for its successful work in fundamental and applied research, and in the context of its 75th anniversary, the USSR AMS N.F. Gamaleya SRIEM) was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.
For a long time period, the Institute was a crucial center for 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 had been conceived here. Later on, as the production capacity at other institutes around the country developed, the USSR AMS N.F. Gamaleya SRIEM was gradually freed of its responsibility to produce quite a few drugs, and it transitioned to working on how to address large-scale theoretical challenges. By 1966, the Institute chiefly kept advanced development work, and producing new drugs, in the scope of its efforts.
The first director of the USSR AMS N.F. Gamaleya SRIEM was the academician V.D. Timakov (from 1945-1953). After that, it was headed by: USSR AMS academician G.V. Vygodchikov (1954-1955 гг.); 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 then from 1964-1979); USSR AMS corresponding member D.R. Kaulen (1979-1982): USSR AMS (Russian Academy of Medical Sciences) S.V. Prozorovskiy (1982-1997).
Since 1997, the academician A.L. Gintsburg has been the Institute’s director; it was turned into a federal-level scientific research center in 2014.