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Research Institute of Influenza (RII) was founded in 1967 as a lead institution under the Ministry of Public Health of the USSR to explore the «Influenza and Influenza-Like Illnesses (ILI) problem». The area of research included virology, immunology, and epidemiology of influenza and other acute respiratory infections (ARI), and designing means for their prevention and therapy. During 1992–2010 the Institute was incorporated into the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (RAMS).Since the end of 2010, the activities of RII were continued under the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation (RF MPHSD).

The founder and the first director of the Institute was Anatoly Alexandrovich Smorodintsev (1901–1986), a full member of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, a prominent virologist, initiator of the first virological laboratories in the country and one of the patriarchs of the Russian school of virology. Under his guidance, live and inactivated vaccines against many infections such as parotitis, measles, rubella, tick-borne encephalitis etc. were developed. Truly outstanding were his studies of the poliomyelitis vaccine and obtaining proof of its safety. These investigations conducted in collaboration with his colleague Mikhail Petrovich Chumakov contributed to the eradication of poliomyelitis all over the world. For these achievements both famous Russian scientists were awarded the Lenin Prize in 1963.

A. A. Smorodintsev obtained the first ever live attenuated influenza vaccine. The results of this important accomplishment were published in Lancet in 1937. Under his leadership, new scientific branches of complex influenza prevention system, generation of live combined viral vaccines, application of interferon inductors for non-specific influenza and ARI prevention, evaluation of role of collective immunity during influenza, etc. were developed.

Scientific work of A. A. Smorodintsev saw light in a multitude of publications and monographs. He received worldwide recognition and became an honorary member of various international medical societies.

Since 1973 RII was headed by Prof. Mikhail Petrovich Zykov. In 1976 he was succeeded by Prof. Georgiy Ivanovich Karpukhin, who was in charge till 1988.

In 1988 Prof. Oleg Ivanovich Kiselev, one of the leading Russian specialists in biochemistry and molecular virology, assumed the position of RII Director to serve in this capacity through the present time.

Under guidance and active participation of Prof. Kiselev, a number of important studies contributing to influenza virus variability research, construction of genetically-engineered vaccines, design of antiviral drugs and analysis of molecular mechanisms of their activity, were carried out. During his tenure, many novel approaches to vaccine generation and nanotechnology application were implemented into influenza-related research. Due to efforts of Prof. Kiselev clinical investigations at RII were extended and moved forward. Under his leadership, RII expands its international relations and is involved in various national and international scientific projects of vital significance. As a member of WHO expert bodies, he promotes further collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the field of influenza and ARI monitoring and control.

The Research Institute of Influenza contributed greatly to the solution of fundamental and applied problems in evolutionary variability of influenza viruses (Prof. T. Luzyanina, Prof. D. Golubev), virus immunity (Prof. R. Polyak, Prof. Ya. Shvarzman), development of diagnostic techniques for viral infections (Prof. A. Sominina, L. Kamforin), elucidation of virus attenuation molecular basis, construction of the first reassortant vaccines (Prof. G. Alexandrova). Collection of Viruses and Cell Cultures was formed at the Institute. Specialists of the Clinical Department, headed by Prof D. Zlydnikov and Dr P. Starshov, established new ways of etiotropic and patogenetic therapy of severe and complicated cases of influenza/ARI. The creation of new medical products for therapy and prevention of viral infections, performed at the RII, were also of high importance (Prof. V. Ilijenko).

In the beginning of the 70s, RII developed a scientifically-based system for epidemiological and etiological influenza and ARI surveillance, which allowed forecasting epidemic spread and taking timely and necessary combined preventive measures. During the tenure of Prof. Karpukhin, the organization of the national network of Regional Base Laboratories and establishment of the Federal Influenza and ARI Centre, working successfully by this day, was completed.

Russia joined global influenza surveillance system 40 years ago. The Institute became part of this network since 1971, functioning as a WHO National Influenza Centre.

Since its foundation, RII in the framework of the Influenza and ILI Problem Committee coordinated influenza and ARI investigations, analyzed research works, determined current trends, defined influenza prevention strategies, and conducted scientific conferences and workshops.

Results of the Institute’s research activity were presented in multitude of scientific publications and guidelines.