In 2013 and 2014, megagrant competitions were held at St Petersburg University. To implement the Megagrant Programme, 6 research laboratories have been established, with leading scholars from Russia and other countries appointed their heads.

1. Laboratory "Center for Bioinformatics and Algorithmic Biotechnology"

Created in: 2014

Headed by: Alla Lvovna Lapidus

Scientific Consultant: Pavel Arkadyevich  Pevzner, an expert in bioinformatics, computational biology, systems biology, Candidate of Mathematics and Physics, Professor of the University of California, San Diego (USA)

Bioinformatics is a rapidly developing science firmly linking biologists, mathematicians, programmers, and statisticians. Just a couple of years ago bioinformatics was practiced at a few Russian laboratories only, while today this science is being actively advanced both nationally and worldwide. It owes much, in terms of its high development rate, to the Center for Algorithmic Biotechnology, or CAB, created in SPbU 18 months ago.

Among the revolutionary developments of the laboratory there is a completely new immunoinformatics branch created from scratch and making it possible to analyse antibody repertoires appearing in an organism as a response to infection or any other aggressive exposure. Without such software it would be very hard or even impossible to analyse these repertoires. Even the first steps made by the laboratory in this direction arouse huge interest among the members of the scientific and pharmacological community. As a result, the laboratory received several cooperation offers.

For many years Russia has been a leader in new antibiotics development, yet now this time is gone both in Russia and worldwide. The resistance of microorganisms to present-day antibiotics has caused a strong need in new generation antibiotics that will not develop adaptation. Being fully aware of the problem's importance and the complexity of the search, CAB has started developing software aimed at making the search for new antibiotics easier and, which is more important, quicker. Following the results of the first year's work in this field, an article titled “In Silico Identification of Peptidic Natural Products Through Database Search of Mass Spectra” was prepared. It was accepted for publication by the Nature Chemical Biology journal. We must note that all of these outstanding results have been obtained by exceptionally talented people aged 31 and younger.

Contact person:

Alla Lvovna Lapidus

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2. Laboratory of Electronic and Spin Structure of Nanosystems

Created in: 2014

Headed by: Evgeny Vladimirovich Chulkov

Detailed experimental and theoretical research of electronic and spin structure of binary, triple and quadruple technological insulators as well as of crystal compounds of the BiTeX (X=I, Cl, Br) type with an enhanced Rashba spin-orbit interaction has been conducted. Our scientists have studied the influence of exchange interaction and spin-orbit interaction on the electronic and spin structure of these compounds, including their magnetic doping, for the sake of effective application of such materials in spintronics. We have analysed the possibilities of the anomalous quantum Hall effect in magnetically doped topological insulators and BiTeI. We have also studied the electronic and spin structures of new perspective systems based on these materials, including those with double Dirac cones in electronic spectra. We have also studied systems based on combinations of topological insulators and cobalt phthalocyanines for organising an interface between the two types of materials with different properties. We have studied optical and dielectric properties of BiTeI and BiTeCl in the field of optical transitions, that being a crucial issue for practical application of such compounds. A theoretical research of the new types of binary and triple Bi-Te topological insulators containing Sn has been conducted as well. The existence of a new type of topological states realised in triple compounds based on heavy metal atoms has been predicted. The quantum spin Hall effect theory has been thoroughly studied in a 3D topological insulator. A more complete and less controversial quantum spin Hall effect theory has been suggested. It differs from the classical model based on the two-dimensional nature of topological insulators. We have conducted research on the synthesis and analysis of the electronic structure of systems based on functionalised graphene. We have studied the effect of boron impurities embedded into the graphene lattice. A new method of forming graphene/Ge and hBN/Ge interfaces has been developed. We have defined the structure and studied the stability of the interfaces. A new type of crystal topological insulators has been studied. The splitting of the Dirac cone in them takes place due to the applied electric field. Within the framework of the project we have studied changes in electronic and spin structure of graphene-based systems on single-crystal substrates (Ir(111), Co(0001) and Ni(111)) in the conditions of Pt , Au, Bi, and Pb atoms intercalation and Au and Bi joint intercalation. The corresponding effects of anomalously large induced spin-orbit splitting have also been studied. The effects of the formation of a topological phase in graphene have been analysed. We have discovered the effect of internal spin-orbit interaction and external interaction, introduced by the Rashba effect due to contact with metals with high atomic number. Moreover, for the first time ever, a method of obtaining well-ordered single domain graphene on the surface of Co(0001) has been developed. We have found out that a spin-polarised interface state having a linear dispersion and populated by electrons with one spin direction is formed in the electronic structure of graphene on Co(0001) near the Fermi level. A new method of graphene synthesis has been developed. It involves a solid-state source on the surface of a thin Ni(111)/graphite film and carbon atoms system segregation to the surface from the boundary between the deposited Ni layer and the graphite substrate. A method of forming graphene–Ge and hBN–Ge interfaces with the GeC6 and GeB3N3 stoichiometry, respectively, has been developed. It has been proved that controlled germanium intercalation into graphene/Ni(111) and hBN/Ni(111) systems makes it possible to create well-structured interfaces between 2D crystals and germanium.

Contact person:

Alexandr Mikhailovich Shikin

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3. Laboratory "Catalysis by Transition Metal Clusters: Synthesis of Biologically Active Molecules and Pharmaceutical Building Blocks with Atomistic Precision"

Created in: 2013

Headed by: Valentin Pavlovich Ananikov

Valentin Ananikov is a professor, head of the Laboratory of Metal-Complex and Nanoscale Catalysts at N. D. Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ZIOC RAS); head of the Department of Structural Studies at ZIOC RAS; member of the Coordination Council for Youth Affairs in Science and Education under the Presidential Council; Doctor of Chemistry, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (elected in 2008 at the age of 33, in the field of study "Physical Chemistry of Nanoscale Structures"). Dr Ananikov is an awardee of several honorary titles and prizes: Yu. Liebig Award granted by the German Chemical Society for Excellence in Organic Chemistry (2010); Balandin Award for Excellence in Catalysis (2010); Russian Federation National Prize for Young Scientists awarded for outstanding work in science and technology (2004); Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences with a prize for young scientists (2000). He is also member of the Presidential Council for Science and Education (2012).

Research methods:

  • NMR spectroscopy
  • electron microscopy
  • mass-spectrometry
  • density functional theory (DFT)
  • molecular dynamics

Scope of academic interests: catalysis, organic synthesis, nanotechnology, quantum-chemical calculations, modern physical organic chemistry (how molecules live and chemical reactions run).

Expert opinion: this is a project of high international standing.

Contact person:

Konstantin Sergeevich Rodygin

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4. Research Laboratory for Analysis and Modeling of Social Processes. Political Islam / Islamism: Theory and Practice in Comparative and Historical Perspective

Created in: 2013

Headed by: Alexander Dmitrievich Knysh

Alexander Dmitrievich Knysh, Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan, USA. Born in Sasovo, Ryazan Oblast, on 28 September, 1957. 1979: graduate of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies, Leningrad State University, in the main field of study "Arabic Philology". 1980–1986: graduate student, the Institute for Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences of the USSR; staff member of this institute after graduation. After the cross-sectoral Islamic Studies Group was created, Alexander Knysh became its member. 1986: defence of the candidate's thesis titled "The Main Sources for the Study of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Thought: ‘Fusus al­hikam’ and ‘al­Futuhat al­Makkiyya’” (Research supervisor: A. B. Khalidov). 1986–1989: member, Soviet­Yemeni Historical and Archeological Mission led by P. A. Gryaznevich.

Alexander Knysh has published over a hundred works in English, Russian, Azerbaijani, German, Italian, Persian and Arabic. All of these are devoted to various aspects of the history of Islam.

The research interests of Dr Knysh include (but are not limited to):

  • Muslim mysticism;
  • classical Arabic literature;
  • history of the Muslim theological thought;
  • Islam in Yemen and in the North Caucasus.

Since 1991 Alexander Knysh has been working in the USA. Since 1997: Professor; since 1998: Dean, Department of Near Eastern Studies, the University of Michigan. At present, Dr Knysh is a section editor (“Sufism”), Editorial Board of the 3rd edition of the "Encyclopedia of Islam" (Brill Academic Publishers).

Contact person:

Oleg Ivanovich Redkin

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5. Biomolecular NMR Laboratory at SPbU: Protein Structure, Dynamics, Function, and Role in Human Disease

Created in: 2013

Headed by: Nikolai Ruslanovich Skrynnikov

Nikolai Skrynnikov is a professor at Purdue University located at West Lafayette, Indiana, USA. B.Sc., 1989, M.Sc., 1991, Leningrad State University. Ph.D., 1996 McGill University; postdoctoral fellow, 1997–1998, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; postdoctoral fellow, 1999–2002, University of Toronto. Centennial Postdoctoral Fellowship, Medical Research Council of Canada, 2000–2002. Postdoctoral Fellowship, Quebec Research Foundation for Natural Science and Technology, 1997–1999. Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Science & Engineering Research Council of Canada, 1997–1998. McGill Major Award, McGill University, 1993–1996.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is one of the most powerful and versatile techniques used for the characterisation of biomolecules. NMR is used to study proteins and nucleic acids under conditions that are reasonably close to those found inside living cells. Our research involves the development and application of NMR techniques with the focus on complex forms of molecular motion. The latter often hold the key to the efficiency and timing of enzymatic catalysis, signal transduction, and other biological processes of critical importance.

Contact person:

Ivan Sergeevich Podkorytov

+7 (812) 428 48 30

+7 (812) 428 48 31

6. Laboratory of Amyloid Biology

Created in: 2013

Headed by: Yury Olegovich Chernoff

Yury Chernoff, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA.

1980: graduate, Department of Genetics and Selective Breeding, Faculty of Biology and Soil Science, Leningrad State University. Then Yury Chernoff worked at the Department of Genetics of the LSU Institute of Biology. He changed several positions, from a research assistant to a leading research worker (since 1991). 1985: Candidate of Biology. His candidate's thesis, created while being a member of D. A. Gordenin's team, was devoted to recombination in yeast. Further on, he explored the genetic control of translation in yeast under the supervision of S. G. Inge-Vechtomov at the Laboratory of Physiological Genetics. 1989–1990: Visiting Research Scholar with Dr. B. Ono, Okayama University, Japan. 1992-1995: Postdoctoral Research Associate with Dr. S.W. Liebman, University of Illinois, Chicago.

1995–present: Assistant Professor/Full Professor, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. Dr Chernoff also worked as Associate Chair, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta; 2009: Director, newly established Center for Nanobiology of the Macromolecular Assembly Disorders, or NanoMAD.

Scope of academic interests: using yeast to study the aggregation of proteins, amyloid diseases, prions and protein-based inheritance, adaptation and evolution. Yury Chernoff was the first to describe prion induction by prion-forming protein overproduction and the first to demonstrate the role of chaperones in prion propagation. He is the chief editor of the Prion journal and a member of editorial boards of The Journal of Biological Chemistry and Gene Expression. Yury Chernoff has published about 70 scientific papers (not to mention conference abstracts).

Contact person:

Denis Gennadyevich Yanchenko

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