The American Botanical Council (ABC) is pleased to welcome Stefan Gafner, PhD, to its staff as the organization’s first-ever Chief Science Officer. For more than a decade, Dr. Gafner has served as a research scientist and director of analytical chemistry in the research and product development department of Tom’s of Maine, a leading manufacturer of natural oral and personal care products. Among other products he researched and developed at Tom’s, Dr. Gafner co-developed a breath-freshening licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Fabaceae) extract that is a component of Tom’s bestselling Wicked Fresh® toothpaste.
Dr. Gafner received his degree in pharmacy at the University of Bern School of Pharmacy in Bern, Switzerland. He earned his doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences — with a focus on phytochemistry (the chemistry of plants) — at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, from the internationally respected phytochemist Professor Kurt Hostettmann. His doctoral thesis focused on the search for new antibacterial and antifungal compounds from African medicinal plants in three plant families (Asteraceae, Bignoniaceae, and Myricaceae). Dr. Gafner conducted his postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois – Chicago, in the College of Pharmacy’s highly regarded Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy (the study of medicines from plants and other natural sources).
Highlights of Dr. Gafner’s impressive career include the discovery of dozens of new natural products, the development of more than 40 methods for the identification and authentication of herbal extracts, and the validation of methods for more than 20 over-the-counter drug ingredients for consumer products.
He has participated as an expert peer reviewer for many respected scientific journals including Phytochemistry, Planta Medica, Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and the Journal of Natural Products, and he co-chaired the organization of the American Society of Pharmacognosy’s 48th annual meeting.
“ABC welcomes Dr. Stefan Gafner as our first Chief Science Officer,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “Stefan will provide significant energy and expertise in furthering ABC’s nonprofit mission to educate the public about medicinal herbs and other beneficial plants.”
Blumenthal also noted that Dr. Gafner’s laboratory analytical experience will be especially helpful with respect to the technical aspects of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program — a nonprofit consortium managed by ABC that educates industry, researchers, and health professionals on how to identify adulterants in botanical materials, and helps to ensure proper identity and authenticity in herbal raw materials.
“It is a privilege to join the American Botanical Council as its first Chief Scientific Officer,” said Dr. Gafner.
“I remember hiking the Swiss Alps as a high school student with my camera and two friends taking pictures of every wildflower we could shoot,” he reminisced. “Fellow hikers would sometimes look at us as if we were from the moon, but on occasion, also stop and ask us about the plants we were looking at.”
“I never fathomed that this passion would lead to a career in pharmacognosy and allow me to join a pioneering organization like ABC,” added Dr. Gafner. “I am delighted to be part of a group with its primary goal to educate people on the benefits of medicinal plants, and look forward to the prospect of working closely with Mark Blumenthal, one of the most respected people in the medicinal plant community, and with an advisory board that lists many of the renowned scientists in the area of medicinal plant research.”
Dr. Gafner continued, “I’ve never seen so many new technologies applied to plant science — this is possibly the most interesting time to be involved in medicinal plant research and I’m just thrilled to be part of the team whose mission it is to make it more available to the public.”
“I was delighted to learn that Stefan Gafner will become the first Chief Science Officer of the American Botanical Council,” said noted author and herbalist Steven Foster, chair of ABC’s Board of Trustees. “Stefan is an energetic scientist who embodies the needs of the many facets of ABC stakeholders. He is a practical pharmacist and phytochemist who understands the commercial landscape of the world of herbs, and perhaps most importantly, from my perspective, he is equally at home in nature as he is in the lab.
“Fifteen years ago,” Foster elaborated, “Stefan introduced me to the Alpine wild herbs of his native Switzerland, where he generously drove me to remote mountain villages to explore local herbs. Stefan brings a collaborative spirit, love of nature, and broad scientific experience to ABC.”
Dr. Gafner also received high praise from other professional colleagues.
“Stefan Gafner is a superb choice to serve as ABC’s first Chief Science Officer. He is an exceptionally skilled pharmacognosist and pharmacist, and comes to ABC with great experience in herbal supplements and personal care products from his service at Tom’s of Maine,” said ABC Advisory Board member John Cardellina II, PhD. “I think he brings a wonderful mix of energy, commitment, and understanding of the critical issues facing the herbal industry to ABC. He will be an immediate asset to ABC projects such as the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program.”
Cindy Angerhofer, PhD, executive director of botanical research at Aveda, said, “I have had the pleasure of working with Stefan for nearly 15 years in the natural products industry and academic community. His passion and extensive background as a Swiss pharmacist and PhD phytochemist seem ideal for this new role.”
“Stefan has been an excellent mentor and role model for the technical team at Tom’s, as well as a competent educator of customers, the trade, and scientific peers,” continued Dr. Angerhofer. “The creation of this new position at ABC is an exciting development for the organization, and I have great expectations for Stefan’s contributions as the Chief Science Officer.”