Abakelia was born in Kutaisi and studied medicine at the University of Moscow, graduating in 1911. In the 1910s he studied tuberculosis and in 1921 Abakelia published the first Georgian scientific study of tuberculosis. A year later he established the first laboratory in Georgia dedicated to the study of the disease in Tbilisi. He continued his work at the Tbilisi State University in 1926. and in 1930 became a professor. That same year he founded the first Georgian Institute for the Study of Tuberculolis and directed it until 1938 when he was arrested and executed (shot) by Joseph Stalin during the Great Purge.
He was the uncle of Tamar Abakelia, a well known sculptress in Georgia.
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