Presidential wrap-up of GA in 2023

Dear GA members,

It is my pleasure to offer you the GA highlights of the year 2023 in a few lines – for more details you are cordially invited to click on the respective links. Also in this year which is slowly coming to an end, we were  engaged in a spectacular GA Conference, the 71st International Congress and Annual Meeting of the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research, which from July 2-5, 2023 was organized by the two power women Helen Sheridan and Gaia Scalabrino from and at  Trinity College in Dublin. The 600 attendees from 54 countries were inspired by 14 key note lectures from world leading experts, 435 posters, 49 short lectures, exciting panel discussions and workshops. We enjoyed a vivid and scientifically outstanding annual GA meeting, which also allowed fabulous glance into the Irish culture. A big thank to the whole Dublin team, who made this event possible.

At this conference fourteen young researchers from thirteen different countries could be supported with a GA travel grant to make it to Dublin. At this point many thanks to the travel grant committee, Krystyna Skalicka-Woźniak, Maria Halabalaki, and Cica Vissienon. This year, during the Early Career Researchers Workshop (ECRW) the long-standing and most dedicated workshop organizers, Robert Fürst (chair), Alessandra Braca, Anastasia Karioti and Jürg Gertsch introduced the new ECRW team consisting of Emerson Ferreira Queiroz, Krystyna Skalicka-Woźniak, Antigoni Cheillari, and Luiz Carlos Klein Junior. Out of ECR presenters from this workshop, two candidates, Andrzej Patyra and Marisol Cisternas-Olmedo, were awarded for their outstanding presentations.

At the opening ceremony of the annual conference the awardees 2023 were announced and celebrated: the most prestigious GA award, i.e. the Egon Stahl Award in Gold, was bestowed to Giovanni Appendino. He fascinated the conference delegates with his award lecture: Tradition and Innovation in Natural Products Research. The Egon Stahl Award in Silver 2023 was given to Bianka Siewert from the University of Innsbruck for her amazing studies on fungal photosensitizers. The Bionorica Phytoneering award was handed over to the team of Eleni V. Mikropoulou, Theodora Nikou, and their  mentor Maria Halabalaki for their top research on advanced MS-analytical tools to investigate metabolism in natural products.

For the newly announced Dr. Willmar Schwabe Young Talent Price, Adriano Rutz from the Jean-Luc Wolfender Group in Geneva, Switzerland, was awarded for his innovative PhD thesis on the LOTUS initiative.

Stephanie Leigh-de Rapper from Witwatersrand University, South Africa, was decorated with the new Synergy Award, sponsored and initiated by Olaf Kelber, for her ground-breaking PhD work in predicting and validating synergy in natural products. And finally, the Planta Medica best paper award was bestowed to Preston K. Manwill et al. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, US.

GA is proud to have so many decorated honorary members in the Society. We are happy to add further two role models in the field of natural product outreach and scientific excellence: Matthias F. Melzig, a dedicated academic and long-standing Professor for Pharmaceutical Biology at the Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany, and José Luis Ríos-Cañavate, passionate Planta Medica editor and previous Professor of Pharmacology at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Valencia, Spain. A cordial welcome to the GA family of honorary members!

Beside the wonderful possibility to meet in person at the annual conference in Dublin, we continued to take advantage from the technical versatility and tools meanwhile acquainted for the organization of regular Podcasts (thanks to Robert Fürst, Emerson Ferreira Queiroz and the team behind). You have free access via the members area of our homepage. We continued to offer regular eSymposia and eSeminars, such as the ongoing eSeminar on “Regulation of Natural Products” from different geographical and regulatory perspectives, the highly attended virtual events on “Natural product research in a digital era”, “Ethnopharmacology in Latin America”, “Plant toxins in botanical drugs, food and feed – from basic science to a safe regulatory framework”, “The paediatric eSymposia” in close collaboration with our foundation Plants for Health, the joint eSymposium with the HMPPA on “Rhodiola”, and the very recent eSeminar on “Medicinal plants and industry: An African bench to shelf perspective”.

This all would not have been possible without the many individual organizers bringing in ideas and enthusiasm; and of course it also needs a dedicated team caring about the technical support, the administration and dissemination: many thanks to our scientific officer Cornelia Kern and our all-rounder Olaf Kelber for the never ending, unbelievable dedication to the GA. … and not to forget about our social media coordinator Antigoni Cheilari for disseminating the GA messages/events in an incredible empathic and effective way (currently more than 3700 followers e.g. on linkedin). Chapeau!

We sincerely hope to meet you at one of the next digital events – there are many more in the pipeline, the first on January 26 on the topic of pediatric phytotherapy, and we will inform you by the regular members emails or by any of the social media channels. Even better would be a f2f meeting at the upcoming GA conference, which will be a joint one with seven sister societies: the International Congress on Natural Product Research (ICNPR) in Kraków on July 13-17, 2024, organized by the PSE around Krystyna Skalicka-Woźniak and Franz Bucar and the local organizing team. Registration is already open. Please be aware of the deadlines for travel grant applications on February 1 and for early bird registration and abstract submissions on February 15, 2024.   

2023 was a truly memorable year for our Society. It became 70 years! Therefore, we celebrated our “continuously vivid and dynamic mature lady” not only during our annual GA conference, but in particular with a digital birthday event on September 15 this year. After a history flashback given by the GA president and the impressive and very personal highlights provided by role models of early career researchers in natural product research, our long-standing GA member, Ikhlas A. Khan, Director of the National Center for Natural Products Research, University of Oxford, Mississippi, offered an exciting guest lecture to a broad audience.

Immediately afterward, about 150 GA members from all over the world took the opportunity to vote the new board of directors as well as the executive council, i.e. president, vice presidents, secretary, and treasurer, for the next 2 years. We were intrigued by the high number of GA members (namely 40), who were willing to serve our society as BoD member and volunteered to be elected for the new board. If you are interested on the outcome of the elections, have a look at the new board of directors for 2024 until 2025.

Finally, on December 14/15 it was a highlight to meet the “old” and “new” board of directors in Vienna to discuss the upcoming strategies and events for the next years. It was not only a constructive BoD meeting, but a smooth and warm-hearted hand-over of the “old” to the “new” BoD and transfer of presidential tasks from the outgoing president Judith M. Rollinger to the designated president Michael Heinrich.


After this 2023-wrap-up and first preview into the new year, it only remains to thank you – all the members of the GA, and particularly the most amazing team of Board Directors for the wonderful journey through the last four years of my presidency. To @ Michael and the whole team around: all the best for you and this beautiful and large GA family!

Wishing you all a relaxing holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year 2024!

Judith M. Rollinger, University of Vienna, Austria
  GA president (2020 2023) –