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Summer school on natural drug products

Explore the theory and the current research and application of natural products

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CIVIS focus area
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Medicine and Health
  • Short-term
  • CIVIS Hub 3
Course dates
4-8 July 2022
Application deadline extended to 22 April 2022

Nature is still a vital source of drug leads and medicinal agents. Throughout the years, an impressive number of important drugs has been derived from natural sources. During the period 1981 to 2019, 18.9% of the FDA-approved drugs were natural-derived products and 3.8% were unaltered natural products. It is apparent that natural products will remain to be an important contributor to the discovery and development of new drugs and therapies.

As a result, an initiative that will share the current knowledge about natural drug products connecting research and practice seems now to be a very essential need. A multidisciplinary collaborative summer school within three CIVIS member universities (University of Bucharest, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, University of Tübingen), one African partner (University of Pretoria-South Africa) and three non-CIVIS partners (University of Florence, Carol Davila University Bucharest, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) will take place at the Department of Pharmacy at National Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA).

The aim of the summer school is to provide and share the current research of six basic domains: Chemistry of Natural Products, Ethnopharmacology, Pharmacology/Pharmacokinetics, Pharmaceutical Technology, Phytotherapy and Nutrition. The summer school is structured around lectures (physical and virtual), round table discussions, young researcher talks from the participants’ Universities, students’ presentations, a lab activity, and an industry visit.

Main topics addressed

  • Chemistry of natural products
  • Application of medicinal plants in different traditional health systems
  • Pharmacology, pharmacokinetics (bioavailability, safety and risks) and toxicity of natural products
  • Pharmaceutical technology (i.e. formulations, quality design)
  • Phytotherapy
  • Nutrition and sustainable food systems

Learning outcomes

The summer school focuses on the development of critical thinking and transdisciplinarity, as well as promotes team spirit and an international mentality among participants. At the end of the summer school, students will have been exposed to various aspects that will allow improving their knowledge on:

  • The impact of natural products in Pharmacy from Antiquity since today.
  • The importance of medicinal plants used in the Traditional Medicines.
  • The occurrence, isolation, characterization, identification, and biosynthesis of biologically active natural products. 
  • The concept of QSAR models and the application of virtual screening based on validated QSAR models to predicting pharmaco-toxicological effects of natural products. 
  • The antibiotic target areas, classical and new molecular targets, methods for their elucidation.
  • Techniques used to improve the physicochemical properties (e.g. water solubility), bioavailability and serum and tissue pharmacokinetics, of orally administered natural products, as well as possible alternative routes of administration.
  • Assays to evaluate efficacy and toxicity of different natural topical drugs.
  • The use of formulations and in particular nanotechnologies to enhance the biopharmaceutical properties of natural products.
  • The principles of QbD and the impact of their application to the development of pharmaceutical formulations
  • The process and requirements needed to take natural products all the way from research and development through to commercialization.
  • The use and safety of herbal medicinal products carefully interpreting the monographs and the claims of the European Medicine Agency (EMA).
  • Gemmotherapy.
  • The importance of natural products in the Mediterranean Diet and their vital role in sustainable food systems.
Application deadline extended to 22 April 2022
Dates: 4-8 July 2022 Duration: 5 days
Format: Blended Language: English (B2)
Location: Athens, Greece CIVIS scholarships: 20
Contact hours: 8 hours/day ECTS: 2*
Contact: Prof. Εleni Skaltsa Individual workload: 2 hours/day

*The recognition of ECTS depends on your home university. 


5 days of 8-hour activity, plus reading and writing homework. Students should expect to dedicate approximately 10 hours per day, including personal reading and assessments (self-study hours). They will also prepare a presentation in a relative theme. On the 1st day there will be a welcome reception at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece). The following 3 days include:

  • Round table discussions
  • A wet lab where students will prepare an essential oil, will analyse it by GC-MS technique and then, they will do a formulation wet lab where they will load this essential oil in a formulation i.e. crème
  • A visit in the pharmaceutical industry and a session of Young Researcher’s Talks

Application process

Students should send a CV and a cover letter indicating their motivation to attend the summer school (up to 400 words).
Applications should be sent to the organizing committee of the summer school:

The application deadline is 22 April 2022. Selected students will be notified on 6 May 2022.


Evaluation will be based on their participation and their presentation during the summer school.

General Eligibility Criteria for CIVIS Courses

Applicants need to be enrolled at their home university in order to be eligible for selection and participation.  If uncertain about your status at your home university (part-time or exchange students etc) please check with your home university’s website or International Office. 

Applicants who will be receiving other Erasmus funds for the duration of the course are not entitled to funding. Participation in the course may still be possible under “zero-grant” status, but applicants should contact their home university in order to confirm this. 

A list of links and contacts for each university can be found in this Q&A.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Robert Ancuceanu is Professor within the Bucharest Faculty of Pharmacy (Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy). He was director general of the General Directorate for Pharmaceutics and Medical Devices within the Romanian Ministry of Health and Vice-president of the Romanian National Medicines Agency. He was a member of the EMA Committee for Human Medicinal Products, of the Paediatric Committee and an alternate member of the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products. He has published over 70 scientific papers, two books as a single author and was a co-author or chapter author to 13 books.

Anna Rita Bilia is Professor working in the field of formulations and quality control of natural products at the Department of Chemistry, University of Florence. Her experience includes diverse extensive knowledge on the improvement of the biopharmaceutical and technological properties of plant extracts and natural products by conventional and innovative formulations. She is the president of the Interdepartmental Centre of Services for Biotechnologies of Agrarian, Chemical, Industrial interest and Director of the School of Specialization in Hospital Pharmacy. She is the former president of the International Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research. She has more than 260 publications in international scientific journals (Scopus h-index:43; citations >7000).

Heike Brötz-Oesterhelt is Professor at the University of Tübingen. She is a microbiologist working in antibacterial drug discovery in the academic as well as pharmaceutical industry setting for more than 25 years. After her PhD, she joined the Anti-Infectives Department of Bayer HealthCare, evaluating novel targets, developing lead structures and heading project teams in structure optimization campaigns. In 2010, she returned to academia as a professor for Pharmaceutical Biology at the University of Duesseldorf, and since 2014 she is a full professor for Microbiology at the University of Tübingen heading the Department of Microbial Bioactive Compounds. She authored approx. 80 publications (H-index 38, >6000 citations) plus approx.10 patents.

Namrita Lall (Prof.) is a Research Chair at the University of Pretoria. She has also been appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Natural Resources University of Missouri, USA and at JSS AHER, India. She is also appointed as Senior Research fellow at the Bio-Tech R&D Institute, Jamaica. Six start-up companies named, "Bio Indigenous Solution" (a Mamelodi community-based company in Pretoria), “Tone Tribe”, "Blyde Botanics", "Anoiksen", "Scholareview" and "Looksci" (formed by Young postgraduates) resulted from Prof Lall’s research program. She has published more than 168 research articles, 12 patents, more than 54 book chapters, H-index is 44.

Emily Mevers (Ph.D.) received her B.Sc. in Chemistry at the University of South Florida in 2009 then obtained her Ph.D. in 2014 at the University of California San Diego under the mentorship of Prof. Bill Gerwick. Upon completion of her Ph.D. she joined Prof. Jon Clardy’s laboratory as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School. Now she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Virginia Tech, her group is interested in working to understand the ecological role of small molecules produced by microbes in complex symbioses and leveraging this information for drug development.

Marcello Nicoletti (Prof.) graduated in Chemistry and in Industrial Chemistry at the University Sapienza of Rome, Italy. Later, he went on to complete a Post doctorate at the University of Cambridge (England). He has spent several years in many countries of South America and Africa, studying the plants utilized in local traditional medicine. His scientific interest is involved in the utilization of advanced analytic techniques in solving biological problems, including environmental impact factors, and quality control of food supplements. He is author of more than 300 papers in international scientific journals and several books and chapters, including study and validation of Meristemotherapy. From November 2020 he retired from academic duties and is now collaborating with institutions and industries related to natural products.

Eliza Oprea is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Bucharest with two Bachelor's Degrees (Chemistry and Pharmacy). She is co-authored 60 publications (from the Web of Science Core Collection) in Pharmacology, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry, three book chapters, seven books, and delivered more than 40 scientific communications at various conferences. She was also involved in two research projects as a project director and a team member in 13 national and UE projects. Within the Department of Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Catalysis, she has given undergraduate students a series of courses and seminars.

Michail Rallis is Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology at the Department of Pharmacy, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). He is working in the field of dermatopharmacology and cosmetology. He studies the treatment of different skin diseases at a preclinical level. He is a member of “Oxygen Club of California” and “Society of Free Radical Research -Europe”. He supervised 4 PhD thesis (3 are in progress) and many Master and Diploma Thesis. He has 39 publications in international scientific journals and more than 130 presentations in international congresses. He is a conference organizer of the “Oxidative stress in skin biology and medicine” international congress.

Dimitrios M. Rekkas is Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology at the Department of Pharmacy, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). His research and teaching interests include: Pharmaceutical Technology, Industrial Pharmacy, Dosage Form Design, Experimental Design, Statistical Process Control, Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Total Quality Management and Quality by Design. He is member of the International Relations and European Educational Programs Committee, the board of Strategic Planning of the NKUA and vice President of the European Association of Faculties of Pharmacy (EAFP). He has served as the Head of the Department of Pharmacy of NKUA and currently is the Director of the Section of Pharmaceutical Technology.

Lavinia Ruta is a lecturer at the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Chemistry, Department of Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry and Catalysis. She is a researcher with a double specialization: pharmacy and chemistry. Dr. Ruta research is focused on the study of molecular mechanisms involved in Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells' response to environmental stress (metallic, oxidative) and on engineering yeast cells aimed to hyperaccumulate heavy metals from the environment in order to use them as potential bioremediators of wastewaters. The pro-oxidant and antioxidant activity of organic compounds is another important topic of her research.

Εleni Skaltsa is Professor at the Department of Pharmacy, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). She is working in the field of chemistry natural products and pharmacognosy for 38 years. She is member of International and Greek Organizations and referee in many International Scientific journals. She is Associate Editor of Phytochemistry. She supervised 13 Ph. D., 53 M. Sc. and many diploma theses, while more are in progress. She has 188 publications in international scientific journals and more than 200 presentations in Congresses/Conferences (h-index:41; citations >5200). She was Vice Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, NKUA (2017-2020). She is member of the Committee for Continuing Education & CPD of community pharmacists and Drug Price Negotiation Committee (National Organization of Medicine).

Ekaterina-Michaela Tomou (M.Sc., PhD) is a pharmacist. Her Ph.D. thesis was funded by the Hellenic Foundation for Research & Innovation (HFRI; GA. 16228) at the Department of Pharmacy, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). So far, she has 1 chapter, 26 publications, and more than 18 presentations in scientific conferences (oral and poster presentations). During her Ph.D. studies, she was a Fulbright Scholar (2019-2020) at Harvard Medical School. She is selected as one of the CIVIS Ambassadors of NKUA. She participated in the manifesto on the Future of European Universities for 2022 from the European Universities Community (EUC) and she has been selected to participate in the relative Congress (European Student Assembly).

 Antonia Trichopoulou MD, PhD, President of the Hellenic Health Foundation, Full Member of the Academy of Athens, Professor Emeritus of the University of Athens School of Medicine. She has served as president of the Federation of the European Nutrition Societies and as chairperson or key member of numerous Greek, European Commission and World Health Organization Committees. Her scientific work focuses on public health and nutritional epidemiology. In 2011, she received the Federation of European Nutrition Societies Award for her “outstanding nutritionist career”. Named as a Highly Cited Researcher by Clarivate Analytics in 2018 and 2021, she is decorated with the Golden Cross of Honour by the President of the Greek Republic.

Georgia Valsami is Professor of Biopharmaceutics & Pharmacokinetics, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). She served as Director of the Section of Pharmaceutical Technology, Department of Pharmacy, NKUA (2015-2020). Her research activities focus on: i) drug protein and macromolecule binding and effect on drug solubility/dissolution/absorption, ii) Development of novel dosage forms with optimized absorption from GI and other routes of administration, iii) Pre-clinical and clinical PK/PD studies, iv) Development/validation/application of analytical methods for drug bioassay, v) Individualization of drug therapy. She serves as Scientific reviewer of the Greek National Organization for Medicines (GNOM) and as European Expert of European Medicines Agency (EMA) through the GNOM.