Let’s pave the way for curing skin diseases

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

Besides the ownership, the Foundation provides philanthropic grants with the aim to support the best international research in skin diseases and make Denmark a global beacon for skin research.

In addition, the Foundation manages financial assets of around DKK 16.5bn. These assets are invested with the main objectives of ensuring the continued capability to support LEO Pharma’s long-term development and provide funds for philanthropic activities.

The LEO Foundation was established in 1984 by Knud E. Abildgaard, who at the time was the owner of LEO Pharma.

Until 2021, the Foundation was the sole owner of LEO Pharma. In 2021, the Foundation welcomed Nordic Capital as a minority shareholder and partner to the Foundation, who remains the company’s long-term controlling owner. The partnership with Nordic Capital will further support LEO Pharma’s development and strengthen its position in medical dermatology.

Not just numbers, but figures that matter


year founded


DKK million (~EUR 30m) in grants, 2023


DKK billion (~EUR 2.2bn) in financial assets, 2023


DKK million (~EUR 88m) in grants and awards to skin research since 2019


number of grants and awards since 2019


countries who have received grants

How we pave the way…

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’s strategic direction and ambitions toward 2030 address these challenges and are centered around our core purpose: Let’s pave the way for curing skin diseases.

Four ambitions with the focus on paving the way for curing skin diseases are at the heart of our work toward 2030. These ambitions are well founded in our charter and a rich history, with research into and treatment of skin diseases at its heart.

What we do

Pioneer new discoveries

We catalyze outstanding
research that pioneers
new discoveries and
transforms our understanding
of the skin and its

Be an engaged owner

We assess, challenge,
and support LEO Pharma
in becoming a global leader
in medical dermatology
delivering outstanding

Grow and diversify our assets

We generate attractive investment returns that enable us to ensure LEO Pharma’s long-term
continuation and strategic
development, as well as provide a growing basis for
philanthropic grants.

Drive sustainable development

We drive and
promoting sustainable
and responsible
practices across our

400 years of history

From the first Lion Pharmacy in 1620 to global dermatological front-runner in 2020.

The LEO Foundation was established in 1984 by Dr.h.c. Knud E. Abildgaard, who at the time was the owner of LEO Pharma. He did so to ensure LEO Pharma its future as an independent, research-based pharmaceutical company.

Abildgaard took over the company in 1939 after the company’s founder, Abildgaard’s father-in-law, pharmacist August Kongsted, passed away.

Kongsted had established LEO Pharma in his Copenhagen pharmacy – the Lion Pharmacy – in 1908. Using the latest advances in industrial processes, he set up pharmaceutical production in the basement of his shop.

Apart from heading his own venture, Kongsted also helped set up Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium (later to evolve into Novo Nordisk).

During Abildgaard’s ownership and management, LEO Pharma grew into an international, expansive and innovative organisation with sales and production around the world.

In the 1970s, Abildgaard announced plans to secure the continuation of his life’s work through the creation of a foundation. He intended to have LEO Pharma stay independent and able to further strengthen its position as a successful, international pharmaceutical company.

His plans crystalized in 1984, when he and his wife donated their shares in LEO Pharma to the LEO Foundation. While the foundation’s primary objective was to secure the long-term success of independence of LEO Pharma, it should also support independent research within the fields of medicine, chemistry and/or pharmacy through philanthropic grants.

Knud Abildgaard and his wife both passed away in 1986.

With the LEO Foundation’s long-term perspective and ownership, LEO Pharma has been able to evolve into a leading provider of dermatology care solutions to millions of patients across the world.

Our values reflect our heritage and aspirations


We are transparent and responsible in all our actions and stand accountable for what we say and do.


We take a long-term view and are committed to making a sustained difference within the areas we engage in.


We set the bar high and have the courage to explore new ways to deliver results that contribute to the development of society.

Figures that matter

Get an insight into the Foundation’s key figures on grants and awards, administration costs etc.

New York skin scientist wins prestigious LEO Foundation Award

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New Communication Manager and Editor at the LEO Foundation

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New York skin scientist wins prestigious LEO Foundation Award

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New Communication Manager and Editor at the LEO Foundation

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New Scientific Management Assistant for the LEO Foundation

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New Senior Scientific Officer for the LEO Foundation

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LEO Foundation Rising Star Prize 2024

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