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Natural Products Futures Forum

Thursday, 12 October 2023 - Friday, 13 October 2023
08:00 AM - 05:00 PM
2 students in outdoor garden


Hosted by:
National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine

Setting the standards for policy, production and practice in the Australian natural products sector

The National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine presents the second annual Natural Products Futures Forum. A two-day event featuring leaders in the field of natural products research and development, bringing together researchers, government and industry.

The Forum includes networking, social events, panel discussions and talks by international thought-leaders. It aims to connect natural products stakeholders and key leaders in the Western Pacific region to each other, and those across the world. 

Registration is now open.


Professor Jo Barnes

Professor in Herbal Medicines, Deputy Head of School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland

Professor Jo Barnes’ research explores the use, safety, efficacy and, particularly, pharmacovigilance for these products. Jo is also a registered pharmacist in New Zealand and was elected Fellow of the Linnean Society of London (2003) and of the International Society of Pharmacovigilance (2020).

Marcus Blackmore AM

Director, Blackmore Foundation

Marcus Blackmore AM, was inspired by his father’s forward-thinking views on natural health & preventative medicine and has spent the past 59 years committed to complementary medicines, naturopathy and natural health products industries. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from Southern Cross University for distinguished leadership in complementary medicines in Australia.

Adjunct Professor Lesley Braun

Director, Blackmore's Institute

Adjunct Professor Braun is the Global Director of the Blackmores Institute and has been leading the Institute since 2014. The Institute facilitates research and innovation with university and commercial partners, delivering education and science communications for retail staff and health professionals. Lesley has won numerous awards, including the Lady Cilento Lifetime achievement award, and has been awarded professorships at SCU (NCNM) and WSU (NICM).

Dr Andrea Bugarcic

Senior Lecturer, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, Southern Cross University

Dr Andrea Bugarcic’s research interests focus around evidence acquisition and transferability into education and practice. Her research aims to understand the basic mechanism pathways involved in disease and is expanding to incorporate herbal molecular research by incorporating traditional herbal knowledge and contemporary naturopathic practice.

Professor Dennis Chang

Director, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University

Professor Dennis Chang is internationally recognised as a leading researcher in pharmacology and clinical research of natural and traditional medicine. He has led a number of significant multi-centre clinical trials to evaluate herbal medicine, yoga and tai chi for the treatment of vascular dementia, mild cognitive impairment, coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Dr Alana Gall

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, Southern Cross University

Alana is a Pakana (Tasmanian Aboriginal) woman from the north-east coast of lutruwita (Tasmania). Alana is passionate about Indigenous peoples' holistic health and wellbeing, globally. Alana is also the first Indigenous Australian academic focusing on First Nations medicines including ensuring Traditional Knowledge owners are appropriately acknowledged and protected.

Cathrina Geldard

PhD Candidate, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine

Cathrina Geldard is a PhD candidate researching antibiofilm herbal medicines for chronic urinary tract infections. She is a trained naturopath with a strong background in biomedical science, dedicated to improving human health through a holistic and evidence-based approach. Through her work, Cathrina aims to use naturopathic practice to inform research and use preclinical research to validate practice.

John O'Doherty

Chief Executive Officer, Complementary Medicines Australia

John O'Doherty is the Chief Executive Officer of Complementary Medicines Australia – the peak industry body for the complementary medicines industry representing manufacturers, raw material suppliers, distributors, consultants, retailers, allied health professionals and educators. John is passionate about natural health and has worked in the complementary medicines sector since 2018.

Emeritus Professor Ronald Quinn AM FTSE FRACI

Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University

Professor Ronald Quinn’s research projects aim to decode how the metabolome and proteome, two of the most important classes of molecules in biology, interact at the molecular level which aims to solve a key problem in natural product discovery: the inability to elucidate their biological targets. Therapeutic areas of interest include tuberculosis, malaria, Parkinson's disease and SARS-CoV-2.

Emma Rawson-Te Patu

Director, ManuKahu Associates Limited

Emma Rawson-Te Patu is of the Māori tribal groups of Ngāti Ranginui, Ngai te Rangi, Raukawa and Ngāti Haua of Āotearoa New Zealand. Emma is the first Indigenous woman President-Elect of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) and Co-Vice Chair of the WFPHA Indigenous Working Group. Emma has been involved in Public Health, Hauora Māori (Māori health), for two decades and consults to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

Dr Michael Smith

Adjunct Professor, National Centre for Natural Product Research, University of Mississippi

Dr Michael Smith is an internationally recognised leader in the regulation, policy development and research programs in natural health products. He has overseen natural products regulation for the TGA in Australia and for Health Canada. He was also one of the primary technical drafters of the WHO Global Strategy for Traditional and Complementary Medicine (2014-2023).

Dr Elizabeth Steels

Head of Research & Development, Integria

Dr Elizabeth Steels is a biomedical scientist, biochemist and nutritionist. Having completed her PhD 30 years ago focussed on cellular oxygenation and regeneration, her interests became firmly fixed on the value of polyphenols in health and disease. Her career has ranged from pharmaceutical to natural medicine manufacturing, product development, formulations, clinical trials, clinical practice and regulatory affairs.

Professor Ben Sykes

Veterinary Curriculum Development

Professor Ben Sykes is a veterinarian with over 25 years of clinical experience and is boarded with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in large animal internal medicine. He has a strong interest in clinical research, holding a PhD in veterinary pharmacology, and new product development and commercialisation. He has successfully commercialised several products from ideation to market in both the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical space.

Professor Jon Wardle

Professor of Public Health, Foundation Director, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine

In addition to clinical qualifications in nursing and naturopathic medicine, Jon has postgraduate qualifications in public health, law and health economics. Jon has worked on integrative medicine, public health and primary health care policy and regulatory initiatives with governments, non-government, organisations and international bodies.

Luke Williams

Vice Chancellor Indigenous Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow, RMIT University

Luke Williams is a proud Gumbaynggirr man of northern NSW. He is currently completing his PhD research at RMIT University in Toxicology, which involves assessing the dietary safety, functional properties, and nutritional qualities of a traditional Aboriginal grain. He is also exploring how food regulatory frameworks can better accommodate traditional knowledge into the overall risk assessment of traditional food products that are being developed for commercial markets.

Hans Wohlmuth


Hans Wohlmuth PhD is a pharmacognosist with extensive experience in herbal medicine research. He was formerly the Head of the School of Natural and Complementary Medicine at Southern Cross University and Head of Research & Development at Integria Healthcare, and he has served on the TGA’s expert committees on complementary medicines.

Dr Phoebe Zhou

Research Support Program Fellow, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University

Dr Phoebe Zhou's research interests revolve around enhancing the preclinical research program for herbal medicines, with a specific focus on understanding the synergistic mechanistic actions among the various constituents found in complex herbal formulations. She served as the main investigator for an ARC project at NICM HRI, where she explored the synergistic mechanisms of functional foods.


Time  Activity Presentation Title
8.30-9.15am Arrival tea/coffee and registrations  

Welcome to Country - Aunty Nancy Walke



Day 1 commences 

Ben Roche, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research and Education Impact), Southern Cross University

Welcome and address

Professor Tyrone Carlin, Vice Chancellor, Southern Cross University

Executive address
10.00am Marcus Blackmore AM, Doctor of Southern Cross University  Welcome speech 
10.15am Professor Jon Wardle, Foundation Director NCNM Insights from 2022 Forum and project on industry needs

Morning tea


Panel discussion & Q&A

Dr Alana Gall*, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, NCNM

Emma Rawson-Te Patu*, Director, Manukahu Associates Limited, President-Elect, World Federation of Public Health Associations, Co-Vice Chair, Indigenous Working Group (WFPHA) 

Dr Michael Smith, Adjunct Professor, National Centre for Natural Product Research, University of Mississippi

Luke Williams*, Vice Chancellor Indigenous Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow, RMIT University

* Indigenous panel members

The food-medicine interface: Regulation of Indigenous Traditional Medicine and foods in Australia and New Zealand 

Professor Jo Barnes, Professor in Herbal Medicine, Deputy Head of School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland

Global developments in pharmacovigilance for herbal medicines 



Dr Michael Smith, Adjunct Professor National Centre for Natural Product Research, University of Mississippi 

Global developments in the regulation of complementary medicines 

Adjunct Professor Lesley Braun, Director of Blackmore's Institute 

Industry update: Natural products 

John O'Doherty, Chief Executive Officer, Complementary Medicines Australia 

The evolving landscape of complementary medicine in Australia
3.00pm Afternoon tea  

Professor Ben Sykes, Veterinary Curriculum Development, Southern Cross University 

Natural product opportunities in the veterinary market

Professor Dennis Chang, Director NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University

The use of network pharmacology in digital technology in natural medicine research 

Roundtable discussion
Professor Jon Wardle (Chair)


Bus Transport

Ballina RSL Club to Ramada Ballina

Evening reception 

Drinks and canapes on the edge of the Richmond River

Wharf Bar, Ballina 

Time  Activity Presentation Title
8.30-9.00am Arrival tea/coffee  

Day 2 commences

Professor Jon Wardle, Foundation Director NCNM

Opening address


Emeritus Professor Ronald J Quinn AM FTSE FRACI, Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University 

A dual Mass Spectrometry platform to detect natural products binding to therapeutically relevant molecular targets 

Dr Andrea Bugarcic, Senior Lecturer, NCNM

Traditional evidence and pre-clinical research 

Morning tea


Panel discussion & Q&A

Dr Andrea Bugarcic (chair)


Dr Alana Gall, Postdoctoral Research Fellow NCNM

Cathrina Geldard, PhD Candidate NCNM

Elizabeth Steels, Head of Research and Development, Integria 

Hans Wohlmuth, PhD

Dr Phoebe Zhou, Research Support Program Fellow, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University

How can pre-clinical research assist herbal medicine? Are we asking the right questions? 

Roundtable Discussion,
Professor Jon Wardle  (Chair)


Closing address

Professor Jon Wardle, Foundation Director NCNM

Where to from here? Next steps and priorities

Transport from Ballina RSL to Shelley Beach Cafe

12.30pm Closing lunch, drinks and beach games  Capiche Restaurant, East Ballina

Early bus transport to Ramada Hotel or Airport


Final bus transport to Ramada Hotel or Airport  

Event close


Sponsor the Natural Products Futures Forum

Your participation in the two-day forum will connect you with up to 200 delegates including leaders from industry, academia and government, to raise your organisation's profile and build your relationship with key natural product sector decision-makers. Explore the sponsorship opportunities and support the premier event of the Australian natural products sector.

Download the sponsorship prospectus

The Venue

Ballina RSL 1 Grant St, Ballina NSW 2478

Ballina RSL – The main focus of the event will be held at the Ballina RSL Auditorium. Located on level two of the club, the auditorium and adjacent break-out rooms offer uninterrupted views of the majestic Richmond River

Accommodation – Competitive accommodation rates have been secured at the Ramada Hotel Ballina Byron. Please quote group reservation 464505 when making your booking.


Shuttle buses will be available throughout the schedule to transport guests from the airport, to the Ramada Hotel and to the Ballina RSL. If you have any special requirements, please contact our team below.

Contact us