Eliava Institute

The Eliava Institute, Tbilisi, Georgia — http://eliava-institute.org

Georgiy Eliava, director of the microbiology institute for the then-independent Georgian republic, went to the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1918 for equipment and further training. He soon began working closely with Felix d’Herelle on exploring the new science of phage biology and its therapeutic implications and possibilities. Together, they developed the dream of turning Eliava’s microbiology institute in Tbilisi into the world center of phage research, soon gaining governmental support and resources. Its impressive main building was constructed in 1936, with a large construction facility later added.

It has maintained this focus and survived a variety of serious challenges over the years, reaching its peak in the 1980s, when it produced 2 tons of phage products twice a week, 80% of it for the Soviet military – a market it lost, along with its high status under the Soviet Ministry of Health and the privatization of its production components, with the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. Its core scientists continued to produce phage in their own labs for local physicians and hospitals, as well as for the military during the fighting in the province of Abkhasian in 1992, and basic research was gradually reinvigorated after its 1997 transfer to the Georgian Academy of Sciences, developing world-wide international partnerships. Extensive financial support has come from such sources as the International Science and Technology Centers (ISTC), Civilian Resesearch and Development Fund (CRDF), STCU, European Union INTAS program and US defense-agency DTRA and Bioweapon Proliferation Prevention (BWPP) programs — 14 projects are currently under way. Since 1997, the PhageBiotics Foundation has supported such activities as the training of Georgian students, Institute-wide English classes, internet connectivity, library reconstruction and seed grants.

In 2007, during a general restructuring of Georgian academia, the Eliava became a quasi-independent Institute directly under the Ministry of Science and Education, giving much more latitude for commercial development than was the case under the Academy of Sciences. The Institute now has been consolidated into 8 laboratories and several special Centers, and has also just established a non-profit Foundation to be in charge of commercial development, following the pattern of many Western universities. Much information about the Eliava’s structure, work and history, is available at http://eliava-institute.org.

Mzia Kutateladze, PhD

Current Eliava Laboratories — including senior scientists and areas of focus:

  1. Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology – Mzia Kutateladze, PhD;Nana Balarjishvili, PhD,Leila Kvachadze, PhD.

    Molecular Biology in Phage Characterization and Application:

    (Staph, Pseudomonas, Salmonella primarily). This lab also includes the subgroup Phage Selection and Taxonomy – headed by Liana Gachechiladze MD, PhD, DSc (Pseudomonas, E. coli, Serratia, Enterobacter, Proteus)

  2. Microbial Ecology – Marina Tediashvili, PhD- environmental monitoring, plant pathogens, food safety, cholera study.
  3. Biology and Morphology of Phages – Marina Goderdzishvili, PhD; Zemphira Alavidze, PhD. Isolating and characterizing new therapeutic phages (including all components of Pyobacteriophage and Intesti-phage); phage preparation and stabilization techniques.
  4. Microbiology (d’Herelle’s original lab) – Taras (Tato) Gabisonia – DVM, PhD, DSc, Prof. Various animal pathogens, new animal and human clinical cocktails
  5. Biochemistry – Manana Loladze, PhD; Tina Birkadze, DSc — Enzymes such as Hyaluronidase.
  6. Phage Standardization – Marina Darsavelidze, PhD — Yersinia, Pseudomonas phages. Includes subgroup on Brucella and anaerobic phages- Irina Antadze, Turfa Burbutashvili (Clostridium spp, Brucella).
  7. Immunology: Sergei Rigvava PhD, DSC, PhD; Dali Gogiashvili — major focus: anthrax research, diagnostics. Includes subgroup of Virology – Nana Topuria, PhD, DSc — influenza, adenovirus, interferon; clinical diagnostics.
  8. Genetics of Microorganisms – Nino Chanishvili, PhD – Probiotics (Lactobacillus); pseudomonas phage studies