History of Institute of bioorganic chemistry

Decision #57 M.M. Shemyakin The first Institute's building

The Institute was founded on February 20, 1959 with decision of Presidium of AS USSR and named as The Institute of natural compounds chemistry (INCC). New institute was situated in Moscow, on Vavilov street, 32 (ex-building of the Institute of mining AS USSR). M.M. Shemyakin became its first director.

Thats how started researches in chemistry of biopolymers (proteins and peptides, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, lipids, mixed polymers, etc.) and different natural and synthetic regulators of biological processes (antibiotics, vitamins, hormones, ferments) in Russia. In 60-s in INCC under M.M. Shemyakin and M.N. Kolosov leadership there were made numerous chemical researches on the most important antibiotics  chloramphenicol, tetracyclines, antibiotics of aurelic acids group and so on. At the same time research of more complex proteins started, that made base for development of new science  bioorganic chemistry. Exactly works of academician M.M. Shemyakin and scientists of INCC made chemistry of proteins and peptides being rapidly developed in our country. Also a novel method for determination of peptides and proteins amino-acid sequence by mass-spectrometry was developed and a new method of peptides synthesis on a polymer carrier was proposed (M.M. Shemyakin, Yu.A. Ovchinnikov, A.A. Kiryushkin, E.I. Vinogradova, A.I. Miroshnikov, Yu.B. Alakhov, V.M. Lipkin, Yu.B. Shvetsov, N.S. Wulfson, B.V. Rosinov, V.N. Bochkarev, V.M. Burikov (1966). Mass spectrometric determination of the amino-acid sequence of peptides. Nature 211 (5047), 361366). Abilities of these methods were demonstrated with synthesis of series of natural peptides (gramicidin S, angiotensin, etc.) and their analogs; later such a method was used by other researchers for synthesis of oligonucleotides. Works of M.M. Shemyakin and his colleagues devoted to problems of antibiotics research, especially monograph Chemistry of antibiotics published in 1949, 1953 and 1961, had great impact on development of antibiotics chemistry.

Colloquium in the laboratory Valinomycin

A number of very interesting works (19651975) must be marked out: they were devoted to a complex biological research of peptides containing residues of both amino acids and oxyacids  depsipeptides (this name was offered by M.M. Shemyakin and colleagues). Based on the developed in the Institute general scheme of synthesis of optically active depsipeptides, huge amount of different natural cyclodepsipeptides and their analogs were synthesized. Numerous researches permitted to ascertain, approve or disapprove structures of these natural compounds, which were offered before that.

Later, with different physicochemical methods such as NMR spectroscopy, which during that time was rapidly gaining importance, researches of spatial structure of depsipeptide antibiotics were conducted. Very important property was revealed: formation of steady complex with ions of alkaline metals and their transfer across the membrane of bacterial cell. Indeed, these works became the very first performed in molecular basics of different matters transportation through biological membranes. Later it became clear: analogous results were almost made in different foreign laboratories, but soviet scientists of the Institute finished first.

Results of this series of works were presented on different international conferences and after that they were summarized in reviews and monographs (for example, Membrane-active complexons, for which Yu.A. Ovchinnikov and V.T. Ivanov were rewarded in 1978 with Leninskaya award). Nowadays in front of the IBCh RAS sculpture of valinomycin in complex with potassium ion reminds us about fundamental meaning of depsipeptides.

IUPAC symposium in Riga, 1970 Moment of silence

In Riga in 1970, with academician M.M. Shemyakin and his colleagues hands on was conducted the 7th International symposium on chemistry of natural compounds (IUPAC), in its work world leaders of science were taking parts. For that time it became the largest conference in USSR, devoted to chemistry. But during this symposium M.M. Shemyakin suddenly passed away.

After his death Yu.A. Ovchinnikov  Shemyakins student, young and active academician,  became the leader of INCC. Due to his organization talent and sense of science, 70-s and80-s became breakthrough not only in national, but international physicochemical biology and biotechnology. Then the Institute was renamed in more modern way: the M.M. Shemyakin Institute of bioorganic chemistry.

Sequencing project participants Chemical structure of bacteriorhodopsin

In 1970-s  middle 1980-s in the Institute there were decoded primary structure of such important proteins as aspartate aminotransferase (the key enzyme of mammals nitrogen metabolism) and leucine-binding protein, different neurotoxins from snakes and spiders venoms, huge membrane chromoproteins  bacteriorhodopsin from halophilic bacteria and visual rhodopsin from bovine retina (1981)  and completely finished structural analysis of the largest (for those days) known protein  DNA-dependent RNA-polymerase. Determination of amino-acid sequence of bacteriorhodopsin has been continuing in severe competition between the Institute and the Labaratory of Nobelist G. Khorana (USA), and priority was on our side. This work became the first decoding of chemical structure of the membrane protein.

A lot of the Institutes employees activities has been rewarded with national awards and orders, and in 1981, with decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet USSR, IBCh AS USSR was rewarded with order of a Labour red banner.

Lecture of academician Ovchinnikov

On the directors  Yu.A. Ovchinnikov  initiative, education of new manpower for physicochemical biology and biotechnology was actively developing: there were created new subdepartmants in MSU, MIPT, MIFCT (nowadays  MSAFCT) and in some else. In 1982 on the base of these subdepartments in IBCh was founded specialized Educational and scientific center. For some last years of his life academician Yu.A. Ovchinnikov, in spite of a grave illness, has been hard working on fundamental textbook Bioorganic chemistry published in 1987. At the same year passed first (it became annual later) winter scientific school for young scientists, students and postgraduates in perspective areas of physicochemical biology and biotechnology.

Model of the current IBCh building FEBS-1984 conference FEBS conference opening

In 1984 the Institute moved to a new place occasion, to a new building with perfectly equipped laboratories. At the same year in Moscow very important scientific event happened: 16th Conference of Federation of European biochemical societies (FEBS).

Decision about Branch foundation Beginning of the Branch Opening of the Branch Branch building

In 1984 the Institute moved to a new place occasion, to a new building with perfectly equipped laboratories. At the same year in Moscow very important scientific event happened: 16th Conference of Federation of European biochemical societies (FEBS).

In 1979 with decision of the Presidium AS USSR in Pushchino (Moscow Region) there was founded the Branch of the IBCh AS USSR, and in 1988 building of new complex for this branch was finished, as well as the building of the station of artificial climate Biotron for large-scale tests on plants and laboratory of biological tests (Biocenter) for preclinical trials of the newest medicines.

In the making of bioorganic chemistry and physicochemical biology there were made all prerequisites for development of biotechnological industry  development of the newest effective medicines and crops. As culmination we may call creation in 1985 intersectorial scientific and technique complex BIOGEN (Yu.A. Ovchinnikov became a director), which comprised several scientific institutes and plant facilities which worked for national biotechnological production. They produced interferon α and γ, immunomodulators Likopid, Neoteam-NC, Seramil and so on. From 2003 on the base of the Institute they produce Russian recombinant human insulin  Insuran.

In 1988 Yu.A. Ovchinnikov has passed away. His heir as a new director of the Institute  became academician V.T. Ivanov. 90-s were hard time for a whole country and for national science. But in spite of all obstacles, research in different areas of physicochemical biology and biotechnology has been continuing: an absolutely new subject emerged  research of proteins fluorescence and creation and development of fluorescent tools for for different biomedical tasks. In collaboration with leading Institutes of Europe and USA there were made researches of transgenic plants, search for new methods of improving economic valuable properties of plants, started biological tests on new medicines that have been produced in the Institute.


In 1992 the Institute was renamed in the memory of Yu.A. Ovchinnikov, there have been started regular readings devoted to him. In 2009 there has passed international conference, devoted to the 75th anniversary of academician Yu.A. Ovchinnikov, gathered in Moscow a lot of world-famous scientists, including Nobelists.

In spite of difficulties, the Institute of bioorganic chemistry is successfully continuing scientific work in the most actual areas of physicochemical biology and meeting the challenge of time.