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New research centre for skin diseases is to move in to Maersk Tower

Research — The LEO Foundation has granted DKK 400 million over the next 10 years for a new research centre on skin diseases. The new LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center will get its headquarters on the 12th floor of Mærsk Tower.

The Maersk Tower at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is to house a new and ambitious research centre, which will bring together leading Danish and international researchers in the skin’s immune system and its diseases.

This means that we can retain and attract new talent, and develop an even stronger research environment

Dean at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Ulla Wewer

It is a grant of DKK 400 million from the LEO Foundation, which has made it possible to open the new research centre on the 12th floor of Mærsk tower at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (SUND) on Blegdamsvej.

Ulla Wewer, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is excited about the opportunities that come from the new centre opening at the faculty:

“This means that we can retain and attract new talent, and develop an even stronger research environment. The donation from the LEO Foundation allows us to prioritise some research areas that we otherwise would not be able to afford,” she says.

New technologies

The new, ultra-modern, research centre is to find new and more effective treatments for skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis.

According to Dean Ulla Wewer the centre will introduce new technologies and broader collaboration across different subject areas.

“The foundations’ support for the health sciences is a unique opportunity for us, and the grant from the LEO Foundation will ensure that there is a long-term perspective on the research into the skin’s immune system and its diseases, because the grant extends over a 10-year period,” says Dean Ulla Wewer.

External grants worth DKK 2.9bn

In the past, most of the UCPH research grants came from public, government funding. Today, research grants from private foundations and donations have surpassed the public funding earmarked for research..

External funding now makes up DKK 2.9 billion a year – about the same amount as the Danish government grants universities in free research funding on the national budget.

Skin diseases have been overlooked in society. It is often something that people hide away and do not talk about
Professor of Immunology and Microbiology Niels Ødum

Both the Nordea Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation are behind the large grants of several million kroner to research centres in the Maersk Tower. And Ulla Wewer emphasises that the grants from the private foundations are an important part of UCPH and the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences’ finances.

“If we are to continue to succeed in international competition, we also, in the future, need to be able to collaborate across sectors and work to ensure that research projects are both financed by public and private funding. There is both public and private research funding offered in open competition. These can be used to cultivate and strengthen new and existing research areas,” says Dean Ulla Wewer.

Focus on inflammation

The new Skin Immunology Research Center is to conduct research into children’s eczema, psoriasis and inflammation.

The hope is that we, with the new research centre, will attain new knowledge, so we can prevent some of the symptoms of inflammation in the skin

Professor in Immunology Niels Ødum

“Skin diseases have been overlooked in society. It is often something that people hide away and do not talk about. But it can be extremely stressful for the individual with pain, itching and sores. Severe eczema is directly debilitating for many people, while psoriasis, for instance, may lead to complications like arthritis and atherosclerosis,” explains professor Niels Ødum, who as new director is to run the centre at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

The plan is that the centre’s researchers will collaborate with the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, which is also located in the Maersk Tower. The ambition is to gain more knowledge about the causes of inflammation and how it can be prevented.

“We don’t actually know why the immune system responds the way it does in many skin diseases. With new technologies and skin models, we want to find out how the individual immune cells function and work in the skin. Our long-term ambition is to be able to correct the immune system in the individual patient, so that it does not destroy but protect the skin. The hope is that we, with the new centre, can move the field significantly for the benefit of the many patients with inflammatory skin diseases”, says Niels Ødum.

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