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Researchers at the Institute of Experimental Medicine (IEM) in St. Petersburg are developing the world’s first edible vaccine against coronavirus.

The success of creating a new type of vaccine owes itself primarily to the fact that IEM has been and remains an institution of deep academic traditions that have passed down from generation to generation for more than 130 years.

A vaccine in the form of a dairy product is now in the final stage of preclinical studies. Experts claim that by drinking a sour milk product similar in taste to kefir or yogurt, anyone will be able to develop immunity to coronavirus. Beneficial bacteria can also be administered as capsules, sprays, suppositories, etc. Similar vaccines are called mucosal as bacteria influence our immune systems through mucous membranes.

Thanks to this special dairy product, the coronavirus protein begins to be produced in the body which our immune system recognizes as foreign. That, in turn, leads to the production of appropriate antibodies and cytotoxic lymphocytes against the disease causative agent.

Unique features and competitive advantages that differentiate the future vaccine from all other vaccines created in Russia and in the world:

  1. Patented technology, unparalleled in the world.
  2. The process does not involve a chemical synthesis stage, introduces no contamination, obviating the need for additional purification.
  3. Strict compliance with cold chain conditions not needed.
  4. Ease of transition to other vaccine variants in the case of mutation of the viral antigen.
  5. Targeted immunization, conferring protection from the causative agent at the entry gate of infection.
  6. Potential for immune stimulation in subjects who were previously vaccinated with other vaccines or contracted the disease with low levels of antibody production.
  7. No need for in vaccination, easy transition to other vaccine versions in the case of mutation of the causative virus.
  8. A wide range of vaccine delivery methods: dairy starter, capsules with dried bacteria, sachets with dried bacteria, rectal suppositories, sprays, orally administered lamellae. 
A.N. Suvorov. Photo: A.V. Dmitriev, IEM Director.

A.N. Suvorov. Photo: A.V. Dmitriev, IEM Director.


The idea belongs to the head of the IEM molecular microbiology division and the laboratory of molecular genetics of pathogenic microorganisms, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Suvorov.

The Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg is known worldwide for its unique history and developments. It was here that the world’s first polio vaccine and a live flu vaccine were created. Drugs developed at IEM were used in early 20th century to treat plague patients. The archives of the IEM Museum preserve documents describing the history of the “IEM Special Laboratory for the Procurement of Anti-Plague Drugs” that came to be known as the “Plague Fort” (Emperor Alexander I Fort located at an artificial island in the Gulf of Finland) where 20 epidemiologists were risking their lives to create a vaccine against plague.

Director of the IEM, professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Dmitriev, is here to tell the details about the Institute of Experimental Medicine, the world’s first medical and biological research institute with a university structure.

“In December 2020, our institute turned 130 years old. It was opened in 1890 by Prince Alexander of Oldenburg. The creation of the Institute was motivated by the prince’s desire to save one of his officers, who suffered from a bite of a rabid dog.

A. V. Dmitriev, IEM Director Photo provided by the speaker.

A. V. Dmitriev, IEM Director Photo provided by the speaker.


Our institute was created as a prototype of the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris and the Robert Koch Institute in Germany. Initially, IEM was conceived as a bacteriological station. But due to the spread of infectious diseases, our institute had become active in research activities, focusing, in particular, on the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, viral and bacterial alike. It is by no accident that 4 out of 6 departments established upon founding of IEM were somehow associated with infectious pathology. And drug development was one of the main areas of IEM’s activities (at the time they were called “poisons against harmful bacteria and viruses”).

If one recalls all the diseases that our institute fought against, the list would be shocking: plague, cholera, influenza, polio, rabies, scarlet fever, tetanus, and the coronavirus infection. At the Plague Fort, a large number of doses of serum against tetanus and plague were created, and that was back in early 20th century. In fact, we were the first to overcome polio: for the first time in the world, the so-called live vaccine was created. IEM staff traveled frequently to Persia, India, China, Mongolia, etc. to study and contain epidemic outbreaks. A live influenza vaccine was created in 1987, thus we were many years ahead of our foreign partners. Scientists at the Institute create annual vaccine strains against new variants of the influenza virus. These developments are being applied in India, China, Australia, and other countries.”

Interviewed by Yanina Khuzhina. Photo on the homepage: https://petersburg24.ru/place/institut-eksperimentalnoj-mediciny