25 March 2024

The LEO Foundation had a successful year in terms of both philanthropy and commercial activities in 2023. The grant level increased substantially, LEO Pharma achieved a strong uplift in operating performance, and the financial investments generated solid returns. On the back of this, the Foundation is raising its ambitions toward 2030 and, at the same time, marking its 40th anniversary by awarding a prize of 5 million Danish kroner (EUR 670,500) to a researcher who has made an extraordinary contribution to skin research in Denmark.

Covering two square meters and performing many functions, the skin is a vital organ of the body, providing a defense against everything from infections to sun and cold. But what happens in the skin when, for example, eczema or psoriasis occurs? Skin diseases are among the most common health problems worldwide, affecting around one in three people. We have become significantly better at treating the 3,000 or so known skin diseases, but many patients still lack effective treatments.

The LEO Foundation is sharpening its focus on this challenge in its ambitions toward 2030. These ambitions, together with the 2023 results, are presented in the Annual Report, published today.

The ambitions are anchored in the Foundation’s purpose “Let’s pave the way for curing skin disease”, and in the philanthropic activities and engaged ownership of the subsidiary LEO Pharma – both with a dedicated focus on the skin and its diseases.

“The LEO Foundation builds on a rich history, with research into and treatment of skin diseases at its heart,” says CEO Peter Haahr.

“As an enterprise foundation, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference: through our philanthropic activities, which strengthen our fundamental knowledge and understanding of the skin and its diseases through support for independent research, and via our engaged ownership of LEO Pharma, which contributes to advancing the standard of care for the benefit of people living with skin diseases.”

40 years of the Foundation

The LEO Foundation was founded in 1984 by LEO Pharma’s owner, Knud Abildgaard, primarily to secure the continuance of the company.

The LEO Foundation’s Charter stipulates that the Foundation must always be the controlling owner of LEO Pharma.

The LEO Foundation will mark its 40th anniversary by awarding an anniversary prize of 5 million Danish kroner (EUR 670,500) to an active researcher who has made an extraordinary contribution to skin research in Denmark since 1984. The prize is to be used for research and to hold an international symposium. The recipient of the prize will be announced on August 20, 2024, the Foundation’s birthday.

The story of the LEO Foundation stretches back more than 400 years to 1620, when King Christian IV granted a Royal Warrant to Løve Apoteket – the lion pharmacy – in Copenhagen. Read more about the LEO Foundation’s history.

Four ambitions with the focus on paving the way for curing skin diseases are at the heart of the LEO Foundation’s work toward 2030.

Philanthropic grants to double to 500 million kroner (EUR 67m)

Today the LEO Foundation is one of the largest private funders of research into the skin and its diseases at hospitals and universities around the world, and the Foundation expects to double its philanthropic grants to research to around 500 million kroner (EUR 67m) a year from 2030, compared with 217 million (EUR 30m) in 2023.

“This money will be translated into knowledge of the skin and its diseases in a broad sense. We’ve become significantly better at treating skin diseases, but there are still many people living without effective treatments. This is why it’s important to strengthen research to improve our understanding of the causes and mechanisms behind the different diseases. Without that knowledge, it’s difficult to find new routes to better treatments and, perhaps even cures to skin diseases,” says Peter Haahr.

As well as increasing its philanthropic grants for independent research, the LEO Foundation will boost its support for education and awareness activities that strengthen the skin research ecosystem and the pipeline of future researchers. These may include activities to increase awareness of skin and skin diseases, as well as activities that nurture an interest in medical and natural science among children and young people.

Engaged owner of LEO Pharma with strong focus on advancing the treatment of skin diseases

As an engaged owner of LEO Pharma, a cornerstone in the LEO Foundation’s work and ambitions is ensuring the company’s long-term development and success – and thereby helping to advance the standard of care for the millions of people worldwide living with skin diseases.

“Today LEO Pharma is one of the companies in the world most dedicated to treating skin diseases. Around 80% of the company’s revenue derives from skin disease treatments, which reflects the strong patient focus, and innovative new products are being added all the time. In the next few years, LEO Pharma expects to finish developing and launch new treatments, including for millions of people with hand eczema and for children and adults with congenital ichthyosis, a rare chronic skin disease,” says Peter Haahr.

LEO Pharma reported a total revenue of 11.4 billion kroner (EUR 1.5bn) in 2023, a growth of 10% at constant exchange rates, and helped as many 87 million people treat their skin diseases. The company delivered a satisfactory operating result for the year and expects to further strengthen its financial performance in the coming years as it moves toward an expected IPO, which will support the company in becoming a global leader in medical dermatology. 

Increased diversification of investments and sustainable development are two additional important ambitions

As well as the LEO Foundation’s focus on the skin through its philanthropic activities and ownership of LEO Pharma, generating attractive returns on its financial investments is an important part of its ambitions toward 2030. At year-end 2023, the Foundation was managing assets of around 16.5 billion kroner (EUR 2.2bn) and posted a solid return of 1.6 billion kroner (EUR 220m) for the year, equivalent to 10.7%.

“The primary aim of our investing activities is to generate attractive returns that safeguard our continuing financial capacity to support LEO Pharma’s long-term development and success, as well as our growing philanthropic activities. This is why the investments are so important for us, and the ambition toward 2030 is to further diversify the investment portfolio so we can continue to deliver attractive returns,” Peter Haahr explains.

Sustainability, too, has a key place in the Foundation’s plans, as a fundamental element in achieving the ambitions across activities toward 2030. With the skin health agenda as the most significant contribution to sustainable development, closely aligned with the Foundation’s charter, purpose and ambitions, the Foundation also emphasizes good governance, diversity and inclusion, and climate.

“We want to improve life for the millions of people living with skin diseases, and it’s here that we have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to people and society, particularly through our philanthropic activities and engaged ownership. At the same time, we’re acutely aware of the responsibility and influence we have as owner, philanthropist and investor. So our ambition toward 2030 is to take even greater responsibility for carrying out our work and activities on a sustainable basis,” says Peter Haahr.

Ambition 2030

Read more in the LEO Foundation’s Annual Report 2023

About the LEO Foundation

The LEO Foundation, established in 1984, is one of Denmark’s largest enterprise foundations and an engaged majority owner of the pharmaceutical company LEO Pharma. The Foundation’s main objective is to ensure the company’s long-term development and success in becoming a global leader in medical dermatology and delivering outstanding results.

Besides its ownership of LEO Pharma, the LEO Foundation provides philanthropic grants to support the best international research that pioneers new discoveries and transforms our understanding of the skin and its diseases. Over the past decade, the LEO Foundation has contributed more than 160 million euros to independent skin research.

For more information or interview requests, contact:

Signe Krabek, Head of Communication and Public Affairs
+45 20 49 68 69, signe.krabek@leo-foundation.org