The LEO Foundation Award 2015 – Silver Award

Grantee: Dr. Kilian Eyerich

Amount: DKK 500,000

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.

The LEO Foundation Award 2015 – Gold Award

Grantee: Dr. Nicola Segata

Amount: DKK 1,000,000

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.

The natural history of skin cancer formation: from normal skin to cancer

Grantee: Associate Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani, University of Queensland, Australia

Amount: AUD 268,239

Associate Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani from The University of Queensland leads a team that has hypothesized that upon UV irradiation and acquisitions of mutations, only epidermal cells that can rapidly proliferate are likely to give rise to pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions.

This hypothesis will be tested using multicolour lineage tracing to follow simultaneously multiple epidermal clones that will further be microdissected to establish their mutational profile.  This study has the potential to fundamentally change our understanding of field cancerisation, cell of origin of squamous cell cancer establishing potentially new therapeutic targets.

Preventing Basal Cell Carcinoma formation by targeting the tumor environment

Grantee: Associate Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani, University of Queensland, Australia

Amount: AUD 415,386

In this study, Associate Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani of The University of Queensland in Australia proposes to better characterise the molecular nature of the factors provided by fibroblasts to support basal cell carcinoma (BCC) growth in vivo in order to find new targets for therapies that would prevent BCC development. He and his team will also show proof of principle demonstrating that targeting this process can actually prevent BCC development.

These findings have the potential to translate in effective prevention strategies, allowing field therapy of normal looking skin to avoid the development of new BCCs. Such finding will have strong health benefits in terms of morbidity associated with multiple surgeries, years of healthy life enjoyed by individuals and finally in terms of economic cost.

Young Scientists

Grantee: Mikkel Bohm, Young Scientists (Astra)

Amount: DKK 3,000,000

The talent competition, Young Scientists, is developing talents in both kids and young people in science.

It is believed that science is a powerful tool to understand and change the world for the better. The competition’s aim is to contribute to society in a meaningful way by inspiring a new generation and giving them engaging experiences with science.

The LEO Foundation has found this work important and supports the competition over three years.

LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery

Grantee: Department of Pharmacy, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Amount: DKK 40,000,000

Understanding how drugs interact with skin has long been a challenge within pharmaceutical research. Now, a new center at the Department of Pharmacy, UCPH, is set to become an international lighthouse in this research area, supported by a DKK 40 million grant from the LEO Foundation.

The LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery will form the basis of new research on skin and drugs. Behind the project is the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Copenhagen, where the center will also be located. The Director of the new center, Martin Malmsten, was formerly Head of Research at Uppsala University.

“I hope to contribute with my experience and thus help motivate and inspire colleagues and employees, enabling us to provide the best possible results. At the same time, I look forward to becoming part of the University of Copenhagen, where they have been very willing to prioritize strategic focus areas. The new center offers great and long-term opportunities for making an impact on international research and I’m happy to be part of this initiative, which will lift research in a very exciting area,” said Martin Malmsten.

The LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery will conduct research on what happens in and on the skin when we apply drugs. There will be a particular focus on the physical-chemical aspects of the interaction between skin and drugs, which is important to the development of new drugs. This will hopefully help optimize the drug properties and allow for maximum utilization while simultaneously minimizing side effects.

“Our new center meets a huge demand for understanding how drugs interact with skin. With a strong team of highly qualified researchers, we will set new standards for research in the field of dermatology and I’m both proud and grateful that this grant from the LEO Foundation has helped us attract new and strong forces to UCPH. This new strategic effort will benefit patients as well as society in general,” said Dean Ulla Wewer from the Department of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

Generating new knowledge while also providing a space for innovative research methods and new analytical technologies is what the center aims for. The LEO Foundation has backed the center with a grant of DKK 40 million over the next ten years, which in itself is quite remarkable.

“We’re very happy to support this important initiative and the grant of DKK 40 million over the next ten years is the single largest grant the foundation has ever awarded. What’s more important, however, is the fact that we are quite convinced that the center with its strong team of researchers has the potential to become a global powerhouse in terms of research on the dynamic interaction between drugs and skin,” said Lars Olsen, Chairman of the LEO Foundation.