Control of cutaneous immune responses by T follicular regulatory cells in systemic autoimmunity

Grantee: Søren Degn, Associate Professor, Aarhus University

Amount: DKK 2,795,064

Grant category: Research grants in open competition

Year: 2022

Geography: Denmark

This project, led by Søren Degn, aims to investigate the role of a newly discovered immune cell, the T follicular regulatory cell (Tfr), in controlling systemic autoimmunity.

Søren Degn and his team have discovered that Tfrs are able to maintain tolerance in the skin even in the face of systemic inflammation, which in that case appear to be reversible, but also that if Tfr control in the skin fails, the systemic inflammation becomes irreversible and chronic.

Using a mouse model where Tfrs are selectively deleted, Søren and his team will investigate immune responses and identify which specific self-antigens are targeted when the tolerance maintained by the Tfrs is lost.

Chemical compounds that impede the pathogenic effects of Staphylococcus aureus in atopic dermatitis

Grantee: Tim Tolker-Nielsen, Professor, University of Copenhagen

Amount: DKK 3,236,161

Grant category: Research grants in open competition

Year: 2022

Geography: Denmark

The project by Tim Tolker-Nielsen aims to identify novel chemical compounds as potential drug leads for treating bacterial involvement in atopic dermatitis. The present project builds on findings from another LEO Foundation grant, which discovered a central factor, Sbi, responsible for the virulence (the ability to cause disease) of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in atopic dermatitis flares. As this factor appears to be unique to that bacterium it can be targeted with minimal impact expected on beneficial commensal (i.e. non-pathogenic) bacteria. Tim and his team will utilize existing libraries of chemical compounds to screen for lead candidates that can prevent the production of Sbi and which may be developed into a future treatment for atopic dermatitis flares.

Unge Forskere (Young Scientists) 2022

Grantee: Mikkel Bohm, Astra

Amount: DKK 2,000,000

Grant category: Education and awareness grants

Year: 2021

Geography: Denmark

Unge Forskere is the largest talent competition in Denmark within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Target group is students in primary school and high school.

Unge Forskere contributes to both talent development through participation in the competition and strengthens the work with innovation, idea development and the natural science method in daily teaching. Furthermore, it strengthens the natural science identity and the general science education among children and young people in Denmark.

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Bloom Festival 2022

Grantee: Svante Lindeburg, Golden Days

Amount: DKK 500,000

Grant category: Education and awareness grants

Year: 2021

Geography: Denmark

Bloom is an innovative festival about science and nature, which enlighten us on the universe, the World, and ourselves.

It takes place in the lush Søndermarken in the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark, where some of the World’s greatest scientists, poets and philosophers have found inspiration through history.

In recent years, Bloom has extended to become a year-round platform for science communication, which includes, e.g., the digital magazine Bloom Explore with videos, podcasts and essays, Summer Bloom at Geopark Odsherred, Bloom School targeted at 7th – 9th grade students, and a coming book series from Gyldendal.

By uniting the best from the worlds of festivals and science, Bloom aims to take on Life’s greatest questions through debates, talks, laboratories, conversations, and nature walks.

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Big Bang 2022 – Denmark’s largest natural science conference

Grantee: Mikkel Bohm, Astra

Amount: DKK 1,000,000

Grant category: Education and awareness grants

Year: 2021

Geography: Denmark

Big Bang is Denmark’s largest conference for teachers, teacher students, didactics, and researchers involved in natural science education. The purpose of Big Bang is to strengthen participants’ network, cooperation, and knowledge sharing.

The conference is held annually and gathers more than 1,000 people for two inspiring days with relevant keynote speakers, a humming exhibition atmosphere, interactive workshops, and novel ideas for the continued renewal and improvement of the Danish natural science education.

As good teachers are essential in developing children’s interest, knowledge, and skills within the natural sciences, Big Bang may in the long run incite more youngsters to choose an education and career within this important field.

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Auto-inducing peptides (AIPs) for treatment of skin infections caused by staphylococci

Grantee: Christian Olsen, Professor, University of Copenhagen

Amount: DKK 2,990,405

Grant category: Research grants in open competition

Year: 2021

Geography: Denmark

The research project by Professor Christian Olsen pursues a cutting-edge strategy for the treatment of skin infections.

Staphylococcal bacteria are the most common cause of skin and soft tissue infections, and with the rise of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), this new strategy could – if successful – help prevent minor infections from becoming severe medical conditions. Furthermore, the strategy could minimize the risk of emerging antibiotic resistance.

Bacteria produce and release molecules known as ‘virulence factors’ which cause damage. The production of these harmful molecules is regulated through a form of cell-to-cell communication called ‘quorum sensing’, where the concentration of virulence factors increases as a function of cell density. The present project aims to weaken the severity of bacterial skin infections by inhibiting ‘quorum sensing’ with synthetic auto-inducing peptide (AIP) analogs, and as a result, decrease the excretion of virulence factors.

‘Quorum sensing’ inhibition will target the severity of the bacterial infection, rather than the viability of the individual bacterium and represents an alternative to antibiotics, as there is no evolutionary pressure on the individual bacterium to develop towards a state that is not affected by these compounds. Therefore, minimal risk of emerging antibiotic resistance is to be expected from this strategy.

PACT: Personalizing Acne Treatment Using Skin Microbiota Transplantation

Grantee: Holger Brüggemann, Associate Professor, Aarhus University

Amount: DKK 2,179,800

Grant category: Research grants in open competition

Year: 2021

Geography: Denmark

This project aims to investigate the potential of using bacteria exchange or “microbiome transplant” as a viable treatment option for acne vulgaris.    

Acne vulgaris remains one of the most prevalent skin conditions worldwide affecting close to 10% of the population and impacting the quality of life of millions of people. Multiple factors contribute to acne, including genetics, excess sebum production, colonization of the skin by Cutibacterium acnes and an inflammatory cascade. Current treatments for acne such as retinoids and antibiotics have varied outcomes and side effects. As antibiotic resistance becomes an increasing concern in clinical practice, there is an unmet need for alternative treatment approaches.   

The team have previously identified a range of bacterial strains, isolated from healthy skin, that can selectively inhibit acne-associated Cutibacterium acnes strains. The current project takes a microbiome transplantation approach to acne treatment, utilizing a pre-existing in-house library of more than 1000 bacterial strains and testing their ability to modulate the skin microbiome and reduce acne symptoms in patients with mild-to-moderate acne.  

This project may pave the way for developing a personalized treatment to a very common skin disease while avoiding the issue of antibiotic resistance. 

Global serum proteome profiling of hidradenitis suppurativa patients

Grantee: Simon Francis Thomsen, Professor, Head of Department, Department of Dermatology, Bispebjerg Hospital

Amount: DKK 2,257,500

Grant category: Research grants in open competition

Year: 2021

Geography: Denmark

The project aims to better understand the molecular basis of Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS). HS is a debilitating chronic skin disease characterized by the formation of painful nodules and abscesses predominantly in the armpits, groins, and buttocks. With time, the disease may progress resulting in persisting tunnels in the skin and pronounced scarring. While there are many treatment options for HS, successful management often remains difficult and sometimes elusive – which likely reflects the still incompletely understood pathogenesis.  

Simon Francis Thomsen and his team will approach this by doing a large-scale, prospective study where they determine the protein composition of blood from more than 500 HS patients. They will follow the changes during disease progression (identified as Hurley stage I to III) to identify key biomarkers and signaling pathways specific for the disease.  

The study is a unique translational endeavor which brings together clinical dermatologists with basic scientists to explore and characterize the serum proteome of patients with HS through analysis of blood serum samples obtained at the Department of Dermatology, Bispebjerg Hospital.  

Add-on grant for the LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery

Grantee: The LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery

Amount: DKK 15,099,443

Grant category: Strategic grants

Year: 2021

Geography: Denmark

A new grant of DKK 15 million will enable the LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery (LFCCDD) at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Copenhagen to further strengthen its research on how drug permeation into and through the skin can be enhanced for improved treatment outcome.

The LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery was established in 2017 based on a 10-year grant of DKK 40 million from the LEO Foundation. The new DKK 15 million grant adds to the previous grant.

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Probiotics targeting Staphylococcus aureus toxin production in atopic dermatitis

Grantee: Hanne Ingmer, Professor, University of Copenhagen

Amount: DKK 2,681,665

Grant category: Research grants in open competition

Year: 2020

Geography: Denmark

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.