ISAPP appoints new Executive Director to step into leadership role in April 2023

The board of directors of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) is pleased to announce the appointment of ISAPP’s next Executive Director (ED), Marla Cunningham of Brisbane, Australia. Cunningham will assume leadership of the organization April 1, 2023. ISAPP’s current ED, Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, will stay on as Executive Science Officer until June 30, providing some overlap with Cunningham as she familiarizes herself with this new role.

Cunningham brings 20 years of experience as a scientist and business leader in the probiotic, prebiotic and natural products industry, working across innovation, clinical research, product development and education. She trained as a healthcare practitioner in complementary medicine and has written and presented extensively for clinical audiences on implementation of science in the biotics field. Cunningham has been an industry member of ISAPP for six years in her capacity as Global Research and Innovation Manager at Metagenics, and served as ISAPP’s Senior Industry Advisory Committee Representative to the board of directors for four years. She will work with ISAPP’s existing staff and board of directors to continue fulfilling the mission of the organization.

ISAPP President Dr. Dan Merenstein, who chaired the Executive Director search committee, says, “Among the excellent candidates for the Executive Director role, we determined that Marla was the best fit due to her background and previous work inside ISAPP. She is a dynamic speaker, and is always looking for ways to move ISAPP and the biotic field forward.”

Dr. Sanders says, “Marla has been an engaged member of the ISAPP community for several years and I’m confident she understands and values the unique role of ISAPP in the biotics field. With her strengths in written and oral communications, probiotic and prebiotic science, and liaison with industry, she will keep the organization dynamic and productive as it moves into this new phase.”

Sanders will remain close to the organization and intends to support Cunningham after June as needed.

“ISAPP has been a driving force in this field, fostering scientific collaboration and consensus and building a high calibre network of academic and industry scientists across the globe,” says Cunningham. “I’m excited and grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this community in this new capacity. I’m looking forward to engaging with the ISAPP board of directors and the broader ISAPP community on the challenges and opportunities we face in the field, and developing strategic priorities to move the science forward together.”


ISAPP begins its search for the next executive director

By Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD

When Glenn Gibson, Irene Lenior-Wijnkoop and I first kicked around the idea of an organization for scientists and dedicated to science of probiotics and prebiotics (in 1999), I don’t think any of us would have anticipated that in 2022 that organization would be celebrating its 20th anniversary. But I do think if we could have seen where we’ve come, we would have been pleased.

As I write, my mind is racing over so many highs (dinner at the National Academy of Sciences in DC and lunch at the top of the ski lift in Copper Mountain, Colorado) and lows (broken down and lost buses on the way to our gala event in Berkeley) of our gatherings and the many positive outcomes due to ISAPP bringing excellent industry, academic and government scientists together to discuss how to improve the field.

But my purpose with this blog is to look forward, not back. I want to let the ISAPP community know that ISAPP is searching for a new executive director to take over for me when I retire in June 2023. The position announcement is found here.

Together, we have accomplished a lot in ISAPP’s twenty-year existence: dozens of publications, including five highly-viewed scientific consensus definitions, interactions with U.S. regulators that helped them reduce barriers to human research on probiotics, networking among scientists leading to collaborative research, concise summaries of the ‘biotics’ family of substances and fermented foods in friendly language in our series of infographics and videos, developing continuing education materials, collaborating with scientific organizations on projects of mutual interest, and more. We have built a strong, collegial community, which is leading cutting-edge science on probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, postbiotics and fermented foods. These community members have many more goals and ambitions to realize in the years ahead. I am ready to pass the baton to someone who will build on the momentum of the past and extend ISAPP’s global activities. I look forward to what the future brings for our vibrant organization.