Our history

The LEO Foundation was established in 1984 by Dr.h.c. Knud E. Abildgaard, who at the time was the owner and CEO 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.

The plans came afoot 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. Today, the company has more than 5,000 dedicated employees operating across 61 countries and its products are marketed in more than 100 countries worldwide.

Today, the foundation employs a small team of specialists in our Copenhagen office, who manage the active ownership of LEO Pharma, the philanthropic activities and the investment of the foundation’s substantial financial assets of more than DKK 14,5 billion.