MNPS was formed as a spin off from the ASOMPS VIII activity, which was successfully held in Melaka in 1994. It was first announced during the Symposium, and Dr. J. R. Cannon was the first and only recipient of its Gold Medal Award, as a gesture of recognition for his enormous contribution to the development of natural products research in Southeast Asia. It was anticipated that it is through this society that the voice of the members can be brought forth as one, to the center-stage and to be heard by the policy makers for the sake of the advancement of its members as well as the science and technology status in the country. The science, and in particularly Chemistry in Malaysia then was at infancy. The main reason to form the society (MNPS) was to create interest and awareness in NP research among the local scientists, and use it as the foundation to developing other research areas such as organic synthesis, analytical methodology and medicinal chemistry as well as other associated sciences. At the same time MNPS encouraged multidisciplinary collaborative research among the local scientists utilizing its Annual Meetings as the platform to initiate interaction between them.
The society was formally registered in 1995 with the main intentions as follows:
- To promote research in NP and elevate it to the international standing.
- To be used it as the platform for forum, dialogue and interaction between fellow chemist, between chemists and other scientists as well as with relevant government agencies.
- To promote/enhance integrated research.
- To contribute in policy making (when requested) on matters related to NP research and development.
Prior to its formation efforts to build up research enthusiasm and capacity in NP were through the following initiatives (in chronological order)
- UNESCO Regional Network for the Chemistry of Natural Products in Southeast Asia – 1975. [through the National Point of Contact Representative (NPCR’s) of the network.
- Network for the Chemistry of Biologically Important Natural Products [an initiative funded by Australia International Development Bureau (ADAB)] – 1987 to 1995.
- Jawatankuasa Kebangsaan bagi Rangkaian Serantau UNESCO dalam Bidang Kimia Sebatian Hasilan Semulajadi (Suruhanjaya Kebangsaan UNESCO Malaysia) – 1987 to 1995.
- Sometime during 1980’s and 90’s initiatives by the Japanese Government were also established including JICA and JSPS, which has also contributed in one way or another the growth of NP research in Malaysia.
Since around 1985 a group of enthusiastic “young scientists” loosely identified as “Kumpulan Penyelidik Sebatian Semulajadi” has conducted regular activities alternately between UKM and UPM. These include organizing of seminars (now known as ICNP), conducting workshops on techniques in NP research, participation in research attachments at established foreign institutions and conducting expeditions in the form of a “Phytochemical Surveys”. The supports from the above initiatives have enabled research visit and attachment by our scientists to foreign institutions or scientist from foreign institutions to ours. These have increased our interactions with the foreign counterparts, which enabled our scientists to conduct true serious research through sharing of research facilities such as HFNMR and HRMS in addition to the collaboration established between them. It is through these interactions too that some of our scientists were able to secure international research funding such as the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and UNESCO. Eventually, the government’s effort in raising our research capacity has rapidly improved our standing in NP research through provision of research fund and improvements of facilities. The drawback of this is that our chance to secure international fund has now diminished.
The field of natural product has now advanced tremendously and the boundary of natural product as an exclusive field of study has become blurred due to overlap with other fields of science. NP chemists are no longer able to work in isolation for the sake of pursuing his (or her) own personal enthusiasm. One needs to explore new approach in doing NP so that the benefits can be realized and shared. The challenge to stride forward and progress is always there, perhaps only in different forms at different time.