The new LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center at the University of Copenhagen will pave the way to a better understanding, prevention and treatment of skin diseases that plague a quarter of the world’s population. Based on a grant of more than EUR 50 million over 10 years, the center will bring together leading Danish and international researchers in skin immunology and skin diseases to provide new knowledge to enable better diagnoses and more effective treatments of a wide range of skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema.
The LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center will conduct top-level international research into the skin’s immune system and its diseases. The center will be headquartered on the 12th floor of the Maersk Tower at the University of Copenhagen, where researchers will be interacting closely with already existing top Danish and international research environments and hospitals.
“It is a great privilege for Danish research that we shall soon be able to open the doors to our new center,” says Dean Ulla Wewer, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, UCPH: “Our strong research environment in Greater Copenhagen, one of the world’s leading research regions, give us a unique possibility to firmly establish Danish research into skin, skin disease and immunology on the world map. Skin disease is a significant day-to-day problem for many people which is why we wish to contribute our accumulated knowledge and efforts to these diseases.”
New therapeutic and diagnostic methods form the basis for personalized medicine
Put simply, the skin acts as our shield and as an extension of the immune system. The skin is the largest human organ and ensures our survival by protecting us against the bacteria, viruses and chemical substances that constantly attack our bodies. The LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center will generate new knowledge of the skin and the development of diseases and their treatments. This can be used to strengthen the immune system’s fight against many of the more than 3,000 known skin diseases.
“Sometimes the immune system fails and attacks our own organism. This can result in autoimmune disease. In order to improve our understanding of disease and create better forms of treatments it is absolutely critical that we learn more about the complex functions of the skin and its cellular and molecular composition. Now, we will be able to speed up our research at the new center and we hope that in time, it will prove highly significant for many people worldwide,” says Prof Niels Ødum, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, UCPH, who will be leading the center during the first period.
Denmark as the international epicenter for skin disease research
The center’s researchers will be working closely with leading international researchers at universities and hospitals to provide valuable, effective knowledge-sharing across this major field of research. They will join forces with clinical experts at hospitals and our excellent research teams at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Interdisciplinary collaboration will also be making use of Big Data and advanced proteomics to identify and characterize the proteins in the skin. This will give us new insights into the mechanisms of skin disease and form the basis for developing new diagnostic approaches and possibly new medicines.
The center will also be providing the best possible framework for education, training and talent development for students and will create generations of specialists in the field.
Massive boost for a so-far under-appreciated area of disease
Compared with other areas of research, skin disease research has traditionally taken a lower priority within the health sciences.
“At any given time, one in four of us will suffer from a skin disease and at present we are unable to treat many of these diseases in an adequate way. This is why we want to raise the bar in dermatological research. The LEO Foundation supports the best international research in skin diseases and the new center will provide unique opportunities to a better understanding of the skin and its diseases”, says Jesper Mailind, CEO, LEO Foundation.
According to the Danish Psoriasis Association, it is now time for research to get a significant boost since skin diseases have major consequences for individuals and society.
‘For a lot of people, visible skin disorder leads to stigmatization. People with skin disorders often suffer from extremely reduced quality of life. I am therefore happy that we are getting a center at the top international level focusing specifically on understanding skin disorders like psoriasis in depth and getting closer to developing precision medicine. And it will be located right here in our backyard – in Denmark. The establishment of the new research center is a huge step forward for the dream and hope of developing an actual cure for psoriasis, as seen within cancer research for example. We are very grateful for the new center’, says Lars Werner, Director of the Danish Psoriasis Association.
Inauguration of the ‘LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center’
The inauguration of the center will be celebrated on Monday, 25 February 2019 at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, in the presence of the Minister for Higher Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers.