A short history of ISAD

Back in 1979, with Georg RAJKA

The International Society of Atopic Dermatitis (ISAD) developed out of the tradition of the international atopic dermatitis symposia created by the Norwegian dermatologist of Hungarian origin Georg Rajka in Oslo, starting back in 1979, when he, as an enthusiast for Atopic Dermatitis, would for the first time personally select and invite colleagues to a conference on atopic dermatitis. The invitation always was “spiritual”, not financial in nature.  He always also invited younger colleagues, who would have done good work in the past three years to present in a forum of experts in his chosen new homeland Norway.

The first meetings

These meetings organized by George Rajka took place in Oslo (1979 and 1988) [booklet], Loen (1985), Bergen (1991), [booklet] and Lillehammer (1994), and virtually all people travelling to Norway would take care of their own arrangements. It was in connection to one of those meetings, that the classic and famous “Hanifin and Rajka criteria” for diagnosis of atopic dermatitis were born.

With the retirement of George Rajka, the meeting started to travel around the world, and different organizers would add their specific touch to each meeting. We remember well the great meetings in Aarhus (1996) organized by Kristian Thestrup-Pedersen, in Davos (1999) organized by Johannes Ring, when the name “Georg Rajka Symposium” was added,  in Portland (2001) organized by Jon Hanifin, in Rome (2003) organized by Alberto Giannetti, in Arcachon (2005) organized by Alain Taieb, in Kyoto (2008) organized by Masahiro Takigawa, and in Munich (2010) organized again by Johannes Ring with the musical on King Ludwig II’s life, death and allergy.

On the occasion of the 7th Georg Rajka International Symposium on Atopic Dermatitis in Moshi, Tanzania, in January 2012, organized by John Masenga and Peter Schmid-Grendelmeier, a motion was made to found an International Society of Atopic Dermatitis which would organize future meetings, and also become active in various aspects of Atopic Dermatitis at a global level. This idea was brought forward and led finally to the founding of the International Society of Atopic Dermatitis in 2012. An alert bus driver can be thanked that the majority of attendants escaped an armed attack on the bus during the way back to the hotel.

2012, Founding meeting in Verona

The founding meeting of the ISAD took place on the 7th of June, 2012, during the EADV Spring Meeting in Verona in the Hotel Due Torri. In the early morning at 07:00 (!), Carlo Gelmetti (Milan), Amy Paller (Chicago), Johannes Ring (Munich), Zsuzsanna Szalai (Budapest), the late Kristian Thestrup-Pedersen (Aarhus) and Andreas Wollenberg (Munich) would meet in person for a working breakfast in close proximity to the famous St. Anastasia church in Verona. Peter Schmid-Grendelmeier (Zurich) was present by phone. A board and an executive committee were elected, and the basic rules for such a Society would be discussed and agreed upon. The other founding members were unable to attend the meeting in person.

ISAD meetings

The ISAD meeting 2014 in Nottingham organized by Hywel Williams stood under the auspices of Robin Hood (with a short appearance of the Sheriff of Nottingham and the famous George Rajka song), and would emphasize evidence based medicine, structured reviews in AD and hands-on experience in Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, one of several pubs in England which claim to be the oldest.

The ISAD meeting 2016 in São Paulo organized by Roberto Takaoka had a focus on patient education and clinical care with demonstration of live patients. The ISAD meeting 2018 in Utrecht was organized by Carla Bruijnzeel and Dirk Jan Hijnen, with atopic dermatitis being a target disease of many new drug developments, while the microbiome, biomarkers and genotype-phenotype correlations remained an important focus. The ISAD meeting 2020 organized by Kyu-Han Kim and his team suffered from the COVID pandemic, was postponed to 2021 and became by necessity the first hybrid meeting of the series, with international participation online. Danielle Marcoux and Michele Ramien hosted the ISAD meeting 2022 in Montreal, during the normalization period of the pandemic, with most international delegates joining Canada, and with a focus on atopic dermatitis in children, which had become a rather neglected subject because of the privileged development of drugs in adults. The 13th Rajka symposium returned to Europe in August 2023, and was organized in Gdańsk by Magdalena Trzeciak with the support of the Polish Society of Dermatology, under the motto “Solidarity in Atopic Dermatitis”, with an active participation of African colleagues.

The COVID pandemic, together with the fast-evolving drug pipeline developed for atopic dermatitis has imprinted significant changes in the Society over a short period of time, with annual and hybrid meeting reflecting the need of exchanges between our community, including patients and patient support groups, and a broadened outreach using digital resources.

The 14th, 15th, and 16th Rajka symposia are in preparation respectively in Doha (2024, Qatar, Martin Steinhoff), Melbourne (2025, Australia, John Su) and Beijing (2026, China, Lin Ma), and will make us aware of the latest developments of our field as well as of local specificities in AD perception and management.

Andreas WOLLENBERG, Johannes RING, and Alain TAIEB


Corporate members and Benefactors