The tide of medicinal plants and natural products is rising: conference hears

Posted on: 03 July 2023

Trinity hosts the 71st GA2023 conference to explore the opportunities of unlocking nature’s pharmacy

The tide of medicinal plants and natural products is rising: conference hears

What if the answers to global challenges in health, the environment, sustainability, and geo-politics lie in the power of nature? Researchers believe that the tide of medicinal plants and natural products is rising and can be harnessed to drive innovation in medicines, to support a paradigm shift toward health maintenance and disease prevention and to facilitate sustainable innovation by reducing the global carbon footprint through increased access to, and use of: circularly and sustainably resourced naturally derived materials such as fabrics, medicines, health care products, foods, fertilizers and insecticides.

Hosted by the Trinity Centre for Natural Products Research (NatPro) on behalf of the international Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research (GA, the conference welcomed about 600 experts. Natural products are considered the biomass, chemicals and extracts that are derived from terrestrial plants, microbes and marine sources that have use as medicines, foods, therapeutics, nutrachemicals, food supplements and cosmetics.

Pictured: Dr Gaia Scalabrino (left) and Professor Helen Sheridan 


Professor Helen Sheridan, Founder and Academic Director of NatPro, said:

“We are at a unique time in the history of humankind. Societies across the globe are facing significant challenges related to climate and geopolitics, which impact food and medicines security. The natural world, from terrestrial to marine species, is the source of inspiration for many medicines.

Engagement with such resources needs to be sustainable. As we navigate toward a sustainable and circular bioeconomy in Ireland it is crucial to leverage and innovate nature derived materials and associated waste to be used as the new building blocks across sectors, replacing fossil fuel derived materials. This week, for the first time in Dublin, we bring together interdisciplinary, global experts in Natural Product Science, whose collective and diverse knowledge and experience will address these challenges and work toward innovative solutions that can be applied to health maintenance, disease prevention /treatment and securing supply chains of natural materials.”

Themes and topics from an impressive line-up of expert speakers will include the discovery of anti-cancer agents of diverse natural origin, the therapeutic potential of natural products for the treatment of mental health conditions, natural products as new medicines to treat inflammatory and metabolic diseases and viral infections; new developments and regulation in cannabis research; and wider regulation in relation to herbal medicine, novel foods, new and (re)emerging therapies, medical devices, and cosmetics.

Sustainability and the bioeconomy

A key event embedded in the conference is a panel discussion on the role of natural products in building a bioeconomy, which features transdisciplinary experts, showcasing a systemic view of sustainability applied to the use of natural products in research, development, and commercialisation of plant-base products across sectors.  

Dr Gaia Scalabrino, NatPro Executive Director, and Chair of the Bioeconomy Panel said:

“Natural products are an integral part of transitioning to bioeconomy, and they are embedded in Irish policy strategies. Working with these essential, and often familiar entities, comes with the responsibility to adopt behavioural change and to implement sustainable approaches and circular innovation. The respect for and positive engagement with natural resources is critical to address the environmental challenges that societies are facing globally.”

Professor Helen Sheridan, concluded:

“The Irish government and policy makers recognise our central role in driving the Natural Product sector forward to the benefit of this country and globally. This conference will facilitate the creation of networks and collaborations to support the pursuit of global funding and investment for research and innovation. It will support mobility of workers and students.

Ultimately the public pay the salaries of academics, government personnel and regulators in this country. The bringing together of this international expertise should be reassuring that local academics, experts, regulators, government, and industry are driving our country forward in an area that will benefit all.”

Further information on the conference, speakers, themes and presentations can be found at this link:



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