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Leah Laboratories receives seed investment from Ag Startup Engine

Ag Startup Engine has made an initial seed investment in LEAH Laboratories.

LEAH Labs is an animal health startup focused on a breakthrough treatment that will control and cure B cell lymphoma in dogs.

Ag Startup Engine’s demonstrated support for start-ups with roots in the heart of Iowa is exactly why they are a great early investor in LEAH Labs,” said Dr. Wesley Wierson, CEO of LEAH Labs in the announcement. “This investment accelerates LEAH Labs’ product development and will help our technology get into the clinic faster. We are excited to forge a partnership with Ag Startup Engine and continue creating biotechnology buzz in Iowa.”

LEAH Labs’ technology enables precision gene editing for treatment of lymphoma, which accounts for 83 percent of all canine blood cell malignancies and is the most commonly managed cancer in veterinary oncology. One million dogs die from B cell lymphoma every year in the United States alone. LEAH Labs uses licensed, patent pending technology that enables reprogramming of the canine genome through gene editing, creating new therapies mediated by the dog’s own immune cells.

“Dr. Wierson made considerable progress in developing LEAH technology while completing his PhD at Iowa State University in Molecular, Cellular, and Development Biology and has surrounded himself and the business with a very impressive group of mentors and advisers,” said Kevin Kimle, co-director of Ag Startup Engine. “LEAH’s partnerships with leading veterinarian and health care providers is also impressive. The plans are an Iowa State University Research Park presence for the business, and the market potential for LEAH’s technology beyond its initial target market make it a good fit for Ag Startup Engine investment.”

This is the eighth startup Ag Startup Engine has invested in since its formation in 2016.

Previous coverage

Tractor Zoom receives $25,000 investment from Ag Startup Engine -July 31, 2018

Ag Startup Engine makes second $25,000 investment in FarmlandFinder –July 11, 2018

Ag Startup Engine invests in Automed –July 10, 2018

Leah Laboratories receives seed investment from Ag Startup Engine | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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