The LEO Foundation Award 2020 – Region Asia-Pacific

Grantee: Dr Yumi Matsuoka-Nakamura

Amount: USD 100,000

Dr Yumi Matsuoka-Nakamura is Associate Professor at Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, Japan.

She receives the award for her internationally renowned skin research and her exceptional track record in in skin immunology, allergy and microbiology – and a great vision for her future endeavors.

Read more

Probiotics targeting Staphylococcus aureus toxin production in atopic dermatitis

Grantee: Hanne Ingmer, Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Amount: DKK 2,681,665

Patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) are often colonized by the bacterial pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus (S. Aureus). S. aureus produces a large variety of toxins that contribute to the severity of AD and expression of these toxins is controlled by a cell-cell communication process called “quorum sensing”.  

Professor Ingmer and her team has previously demonstrated that some bacteria produce signaling molecules, which in S. aureus abolish toxin production through repression of quorum sensing and preliminary analyses indicate that probiotic bacteria also belong to this group. 

Thus, the goal of this project is to deliver results addressing the efficacy of probiotics. The project proposes that probiotic bacteria can reduce S. aureus toxin production and that some of the reported benefits of probiotics in AD may be associated with such activity. 

Professor Ingmer will address this hypothesis in collaboration with Statens Serum Institut, the LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center, UCPH and Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, UCPH. 

Genetic and Epigenetic Mechanisms of Steroid-Related Skin Inflammation

Grantee: Bryan Sun, Assistant Professor, University of California - San Diego, USA

Amount: DKK 2,995,615

Steroids are a powerful class of medications that are widely used to treat inflammatory diseases. In most cases, steroids block an overactive immune response. However, in skin diseases such as rosacea and perioral dermatitis, the chronic use of steroids can lead to worsened inflammation. While these worsened cases are common, it is not understood why steroids worsen disease and make them even more difficult to treat.  

Bryan Sun and his research group recently discovered that an important cytokine which is elevated in rosacea, known as CCL20, is paradoxically activated in the skin by steroids. CCL20 increases inflammation by recruiting lymphocytes and dendritic cells. They found that steroid molecules directly bind and activate the CCL20 gene, overcoming the usual suppressive effects of steroids on inflammation. Based on this finding, they hypothesize that in some skin conditions, steroids directly activate the expression of genes that cause inflammation.  

The goal of this project is to systematically identify genetic and epigenetic steroid targets in skin cells. If successful, the results would allow identification of new therapeutic targets for rosacea and perioral dermatitis, and lead to valuable insight into other steroid-resistant inflammatory diseases.  

The 2021 Gordon Research Conference on Epithelial Differentiation and Keratinization (GRC-EDK)

Grantee: Salvador Aznar Benitah, Professor, Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona, Spain

Amount: DKK 204,130

Summary available soon.

Understanding the importance of cIAPs as NF-κB molecular switches in psoriasis

Grantee: Vasileios Bekiaris, Associate Professor, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark

Amount: DKK 2,815,499

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease characterized by overproduction of tissue-damaging cytokines by immune cells and keratinocytes. Central cytokines in psoriasis are TNF (tumor necrosis factor) and IL-17 (interleukin 17), which are currently approved therapeutic drug targets. To improve current therapies targeted towards TNF and IL-17, it is important to better understand the biology of the two cytokines in relation to psoriasis.  

The goal of this project is to confirm that two enzymes known as cIAPs (cellular inhibitors of apoptosis proteins) play a central role in psoriasis.  

The two cIAPs are believed to modulate the response of the immune system and of keratinocytes to TNF in order to fine-tune IL-17 production. The project will investigate whether lack of the two cIAPs or their pharmacologic inhibition makes the immune response less pathogenic and reduces the pro-inflammatory nature of keratinocytes during psoriasis.  

Systemic effects of atopic dermatitis: Dysregulated immune responses to the intestinal microbiota

Grantee: Jeppe Madura Larsen, Senior Researcher, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark

Amount: DKK 4,349,062

Summary available soon.

Granzyme B: A novel therapeutic target in cutaneous leishmaniasis

Grantee: David Granville, Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada

Amount: DKK 2,023,506

Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a designated ‘WHO top-neglected tropical disease’, with up to 1 million new cases worldwide annually. CL is an inflammatory skin disease caused by infection with Leishmania parasites that leads to tissue damage, ulcers, and severe scarring, despite current treatment options.

The goal of this project is to provide a key rationale for pursuing Granzyme B (GzmB) as a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis. 

GzmB is a protein that is aberrantly elevated in CL lesions and other inflammatory skin conditions. GzmB activity has been demonstrated to cleave important proteins in the skin, thereby worsening tissue damage, delaying wound healing, and causing scarring in inflammatory patient skin specimens and in experimental models. Importantly, inhibition of GzmB has shown efficacy in delaying these disease phenotypes.  

Using lesional specimens from CL patients, a well-established experimental model, and a GzmB inhibitor, the contributions of GzmB to inflammation, impaired wound healing, and scarring in CL will be delineated in this study. 

Investigation of genetic variation and development of genetically defined cell models for Acne vulgaris therapeutic and cosmetic products evaluation

Grantee: George Church, Professor at Harvard Medical School, Harvard University and MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA

Amount: DKK 3,926,475

Summary available soon.

Deciphering the functional role of circular RNAs in psoriasis

Grantee: Lasse Sommer Kristensen, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, Denmark

Amount: DKK 2,467,477

Summary available soon.

Atopic dermatitis in Sub-Saharan Africa: exploring immune phenotypes and mycobiome

Grantee: Marie-Charlotte Brüggen, Assistant Professor, University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland

Amount: DKK 1,886,076

Summary available soon.