History of IRGBE
(by Jacques R. Poortmans)



The first symposium specifically devoted to the biochemistry of exercise was held in Brussels (Belgium) during the hectic days of the student's riot in June 1968. The idea emerged from a suggestion made by Prof. Marcel Hebbelinck to Jacques R. Poortmans, both working in the "Laboratoire de l'Effort" (Université Libre de Bruxelles). Marcel Hebbelinck was the Chairman of the "Research Committee" of the "International Council of Sports Sciences in Physical Education" at U.N.E.S.C.O. It appeared that it was a wise idea looking at the development of biochemistry of exercise nowadays!

Several young scientists, who became leading figures later on, participated in this first event, such as
Eric Banister, Philip D. Gollnick, Georg Haralambie, Joseph Keul, Guy Métivier, Bengt Saltin, Charles Tipton. They were backed by two senior scientists, namely Profs Ulf S. von Euler (who subsequently was awarded a Nobel Prize) and Nicolas N. Yakovlev (who was an expert of biochemistry of exercise in the USSR). A few weeks after the meeting was over, Jacques R. Poortmans decided to create a new group connected to the Research Committee of the ICSSPE. The Research Group on Biochemistry of Exercise was born in the early 1969. The founders were J.R. Poortmans (B), J. Keul (FRG), G. Haralambie (FRG), Hans Howald (CH), R. Margaria (I), G. Métivier (CDN), N. Yakovlev (USSR).

The Research Group extended its membership to about ten scientists (
John Holloszy and H. Knuttgen from the USA, P. di Prampero from Italy), from several countries, replacing some of them according to their will and activity within the Group. Among them we had: H.G. Knuttgen, B. Saltin., H. Howald. Unfortunately we have lost several members in their fifties, namely G. Haralambie (1982), L. Hermansen (1984), P.D. Gollnick (1991). N.N. Yakovlev, a pioneer in the biochemistry of exercise has to be added on the sad list (1992).

Up to 2012 the International Research Group on Biochemistry of Exercise has organized 15 "Symposia" (which became "Conferences" since 1988) and 6 International Courses on Physiological Chemistry of Exercise and Training. The former meetings were devoted to the state of the art while the latter dealt with education at the postgraduate level in sports medicine and physical training. These events are listed below.

In 1985, the Research Group decided to commemorate the memory of Dr.
Lars Hermansen, one of its former member, by creating a "Research Award" for young scientists (<35 years) in order to promote interest and recognition in the biochemistry of exercise field. Wander Company (Bern, Switzerland) agreed to sponsor this Award (SFr 5,000) which is attributed every three years during the Conference meeting. Ten researchers were awarded: Bente Kiens (Copenhagen, 1985), Michael Kjaer (Copenhagen, 1988), Jens Bangsbo (Copenhagen, 1991), Ylva R.K. Hellsten (Sweden, 1994), Labros Sidossis (USA, 1997), Jens L. Larsen (Copenhagen, 2000), Morton Donsmark (Copenhagen, 2003), Matthews Watt (Australia, 2006), David Wright (Canada, 2009), Adeel Safdar (Canada, 2012).

In 1992 the number of members of the Research Group was extended to 18 and new statements were adopted to foster interest in the field of biochemistry of exercise.

As well in 1992, the Research Group proposed to create an "
Honour Award" (SFr 2,500) in recognition of somebody's major achievement in our growing field of interest. Unanimously, the Group came to the conclusion that the best choice for this first award was John O. Holloszy (USA) who received it during the Aberdeen Conference in July 1994. The chairman of the Research Group (Jacques R. Poortmans, Belgium) was given the "Honour Award" at the Sydney Conference in July 1997. In June 2000 the third award-winner was Eric Hultman (Sweden) who unfortunately could not attend the Little Rock Conference. A fourth “Honour Award” was given in 2003 to Henrik Galbo (Copenhagen) at the Maastricht Conference, while the fifth medal was presented in October 2006 to Frank Booth (USA) at the Seoul Conference. The sixth (2009) and seventh (2012) Honour Awards were respectively given to Bengt Saltin (Copenhagen) at the Guelf (Canada) meeting (14th Conference) and to Erik Richter (Copenhagen) at the Stockholm meeting (15th Conference).

On a more practical point of view let us also remember that the Research Group received efficient administration help from the « Isostar Sport Nutrition Foundation, Maastricht, The Netherlands (which was headed by Fred and Martina Brouns) from 1994 to 1999.

In 2011, two members of the IRGBE sadly passed away :
Eric Hulman (Honour Award winner) and Eric A. Newsholme (former member of the group). We lost two leading scientists particularly famous in biochemical mechanisms induced by exercise practise.