LEO Foundation | Gold and Silver Awards
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LEO Foundation Gold and Silver Awards

The LEO Foundation Gold and Silver Awards were created in 2008.


The awards are presented annually to outstanding young scientists whose work represent extraordinary contributions to medical research; whose results advance our understanding of skin diseases and has the potential to pave the way for new and improved treatments.


The Gold Award is DKK 1 million and the Silver Award DKK 500,000.


In 2018, the awards will be awarded at 4 PM on Wednesday 16 May 2018 during IID2018 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

2017 - Maria Kasper & Christoph Schlapbach

The Gold Award went to Dr. Maria Kasper, presently leading a research group at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.


“Receiving the phone call with the news of the LEO Foundation 2017 Gold award is one of these few unforgettable moments. My friends often call me “skin nerd” since I love everything about skin.  Thus, it’s such a happiness and great honour for me to receive this prestigious prize. I would like to express my deepest thank you to the LEO Foundation, the ESDR, and my lab members who make everyday’s work fun and colorful,” said Maria Kasper.


The Silver Award went to Dr. Christoph Schlapbach, dermatology resident at the University of Bern in Switzerland.


“It is a great honour for me to receive the LEO Foundation 2017 Silver Award on behalf of my emerging research team. Together with the generous financial support, this prize motivates and supports our journey towards a better understanding of how the human skin functions,” said Christoph Schlapbach.

2016 - Amaya Virós & Thomas Wiesner

Gold Award – presented to Dr. Virós who has made important contributions to the area of skin research by describing mechanisms behind the development of squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. She has published in top-ranking scientific journals and received a number of prestigious awards, including a recent Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinician Scientist Fellowship to set up her laboratory at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute in the newly-built Manchester Cancer Research Centre, UK, which is based at The University of Manchester.


Dr. Virós will focus her future research on the under-researched area of skin cancer and ageing. Ageing skin appears to have unique properties and patterns of tumour development that may explain the surprising increase in aggressive primary melanoma and mortality from this disease. Her aim is to identify the factors in elderly people that make them more prone to developing melanoma and less likely to survive once they develop the disease.


Silver Award – presented to Dr. Thomas Wiesner. Dr. Wiesner is breaking new ground to find new mechanism-based cancer therapies. Following medical school, Dr. Wiesner wrote his thesis on the genomic aberrations of cutaneous lymphoma and completed his residency in dermatology at the Medical University of Graz in Austria. Dr. Wiesner spent five years conducting basic and translational research using cutting-edge techniques within high-throughput sequencing techniques in particular. His work within skin cancer research resulted in key discoveries, in particular concerning the genomic landscape of skin tumours.


Bases on his experience as a physician-scientist and his access to high-quality clinical samples, Dr. Wiesner plans to combine high-throughput sequencing technologies, computational approaches and functional assays in order to define the relevant genomic and epigenomic aberrations in skin cancer and pave the way for new mechanism-based cancer therapies.

2015 - Nicola Segata & Kilian Eyerich

Gold Award – presented to Dr. Nicola Segata, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator, Laboratory of Computational Metagenomics, Centre for Integrative Biology, University of Trento, Italy.


Dr. Segata has pioneered novel advanced techniques for the characterisation of the microorganisms colonising the human body (the microbiome). His discoveries have proven to be crucial in studying microbial communities and unravelling the structure of the human skin microbiome. The characterisation of the microbiome is a fast-growing research field because it plays an important role in many pathological conditions, including skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, acne, psoriasis and rosacea.


Silver Award – presented to Dr. Kilian Eyerich, Assistant Professor, Experimental Dermato-Immunology, School of Medicine, Technische Universität München, Germany.


Early in his career, Dr. Eyerich studied the cross-talk between keratinocytes and T cells usingco-cultures.His work on the role of Th17 and Th22 cells in the skin has significantly enhanced molecular understanding of atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Dr. Eyerich has identified a unique group of patients with co-existing inflammatory skin diseases and demonstrated the mutual antagonism of T cells causing atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

2014 - Kim B. Jensen & Christina Zielinski

Gold Award – presented to Ph.D. Kim B. Jensen, associate professor at the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Copenhagen.


Dr. Jensen’s research focuses on how the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, is constantly renewed throughout life in an organised manner by epidermal stem cells. Epidermal stem cells need to be carefully controlled as any imbalance is likely to have devastating consequences. Too little contribution from the stem cells can lead to bleeding ulcers, whereas too much contribution can lead to skin cancer. By examining how stem cells are regulated in the epidermis, Jensen hopes to gain insights into mechanisms responsible for disease development and identify new drugable pathways.


Silver Award – presented to Dr. med. Christina Zielinski, research group leader and dermatological fellow, Department of Dermatology and Allergology and Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies, Charité University Medicine, Berlin.


Dr. Zielinski’s research focuses on how the body’s immune system protects itself from microbial assault by distinguishing between the body’s own cells and foreign organisms. It examines what happens when the body does not regulate itself in this way and how this affects the development of autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and multiple sclerosis. Insights gained from these studies are expected to identify molecular cues that can be exploited in order to develop immune modulation therapies.

2013 - Onur Boyman & Muzlifah Haniffa

Gold Award – presented to Onur Boyman, Professor, Dr. med., Senior Consultant Physician and Head of Laboratory at the Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Zurich.


Professor Boyman’s research focuses on the function of T cell subsets and different cytokines in the pathogenesis of psoriasis and other immune-mediated diseases and the treatment of melanoma. His research shows great promise both as a potential treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and as a potential cancer therapy.


Silver Award – presented to Muzlifah Haniffa, Wellcome Trust Clinical Intermediate Fellow in Dermatology at the Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, UK.


Dr. Haniffa’s research focuses on dendritic cells; a type of white blood cells also present in the skin that are important in regulating immune responses against microorganisms, cancer and tolerance to self-proteins. Her research has the potential to lead to enhanced vaccination strategies against cancer, such as melanoma, and infections.

2012 - David Schrama & Andrea Chiricozzi

Gold Award – presented to Assistant Professor David Schrama at the Dermatology Department at Graz Medical University, Austria.


Schrama’s research focuses on melanoma biology. His research team currently analyses the impact of genetic diversity among patients and tumours on prognosis and clinical outcome of therapies. In recent years, Schrama’s scientific work has focused on unravelling the biology of another skin cancer; the polyomavirus associated merkel cell carcinoma.


Silver Award – presented to skin immunology specialist Dr. Andrea Chiricozzi at the Department of Dermatology, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy.


Chiricozzi’s research focuses on chronic skin inflammation and the pathogenic circuits underlying the formation of skin lesions, particularly in regard to psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. The award will support Chiricozzi’s on-going research into the pathogenic mechanisms in skin disorders and novel therapeutic strategies.

2011 - Claus Johansen & Charlotte Menné Bonefeld

Gold Award – presented to the Danish dermatological researcher Dr. Claus Johansen.


Over the years, Dr. Johansen’s research has been particularly focused on unravelling the complex network of intra-cellular signals controlling inflammatory skin disorders, particularly in psoriasis. Dr. Johansen’s work has significantly increased the current understanding of the inflammatory process in psoriasis. This knowledge is important for the future development of novel therapeutics which will ultimately provide better care for the psoriasis patients.


Silver Award – presented to Dr. Charlotte Menné Bonefeld, a Danish immunologist with a strong interest in dermatological research.


Despite her young age, Dr. Bonefeld has already made a significant contribution to the field of dermatology. Her research achievements include novel promising findings showing down-regulation of the immune system (a process known as tolerance) when an individual is exposed repeatedly to strong allergens such as those present in hair dyes. These results give great perspectives in finding new treatments and, equally important, give novel insight into why some people become allergic and some do not.

2010 - Jacob Pontoppidan Thyssen & Andor Pivarcsi

Gold Award – presented to young Danish dermatology researcher and MD Jacob Pontoppidan Thyssen for his important contributions to the field of skin disease and contact allergy science.


Dr.Thyssen’s research provides conclusive evidence that the Danish initiative to regulate nickel exposure, started in 1990, has succeeded in decreasing the prevalence of nickel allergy in Danish women. His findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year, hold global relevance and may contribute to interventions in other nations, including the US.


Silver Award – presented to Dr. Andor Pivarcsi, young dermatology researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden for his investigation of the role of microRNAs (miRNA) in skin disease.

Dr.Pivarsci’s work centres on miRNAs, a class of recently discovered small RNA molecules, shown to play a critical role in controlling genes behaviour. His research is expected to contribute significantly to our understanding of the pathological mechanisms in skin diseases, such as psoriasis and cancer.

2009 - Christian Vestergaard & Ilkka Helanterä

Gold Award – presented to Danish dermatology researcher and dermatologist Dr. Christian Vestergaard, Department of Dermatology at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.


Dr. Vestergaard is a young talented scientist with an outstanding record of internationally recognised publications, and innovative ongoing research projects within the frontier fields of skin immunology and skin cancer. The award supports and acknowledges his work, and recognises his important role – linking basic science to the understanding of clinical questions.


Silver Award – presented to promising young Finnish physician and scientist Ilkka Helanterä who, at age 31, has already contributed significantly to the field of transplantation nephrology, both in the laboratory and the clinic.


Following his dissertation in 2006, Dr. Helanterä continued his research at the Helsinki University Hospital nephrology clinic, where he published several clinically relevant studies focusing on viral infections after transplantation and the pathogenesis of chronic allograft nephropathy. Dr. Helanterä will undoubtedly be a significant contributor in the international nephrology field in the future.

2008 - Lars Norlén & William Agace

Gold Award – presented to Swedish researcher Lars Norlén. Norlén and his team develop new advanced biophysical measuring methods to describe the molecular structure of the skin barrier.


The frontline research of Lars Norlén will contribute to our fundamental understanding of how drugs impact and interact with their target proteins in connection with the treatment of diseases such as psoriasis. Dr. Norlén holds an MD from Karolinska Institutet, and is a group manager for biophysical dermatology at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden. He has worked at universities in Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland, and co-authored more than 25 original articles and several book chapters.


Silver Award – presented to British researcher William Agace. Agace and his research team investigated the underlying control mechanisms for the processes behind the generation and movement of lymphocytes in the intestines, and identified the factors that determine which are activated and where they go in the intestinal system.


Insight gained from William Agace’s research will enable new and more targeted therapies for ailments such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease, a serious disorder with only limited treatment options available today. William Agace earned his MSc at Bristol University in microbiology, and his PhD in immunology from Lund University. In the late 1990’s, he spent three years as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School. In 2006, he was appointed professor of experimental medical research and head of the immunology section at Lund University. He has published more than 35 original articles and several book chapters.