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Steel Therapeutics is increasing access to life-changing therapies

Steel Therapeutics is a pharmaceutical company focused on increasing access to compounded drug therapies.

Founded in 2020 by Matt Stahl and Robbie Schwenker, the company hopes to take compounding drugs through the FDA approval process, making them more widely and easily available.

“Compounded drugs are not FDA approved. The downside of that is they aren’t usually covered by insurance and some physicians might be more reluctant to subscribe to these and their dosages might not be fully optimized yet. All of this limits their use for patients even though they might be the best options,” said Stahl. “So we came up with this solution to bring these potentially safer and more effective drugs through the FDA approval process in order to open several billion-dollar markets that increase access to better medications with verified quality, improved patient outcomes through our patented delivery methods, and coverage by insurance.”

Steel Therapeutics first solution they are bringing to market is a patent-pending Fizurex wipe that uses combination therapy that is individually packaged, single-use and flushable wipe. Individuals are able to use the product “on-the-go” to treat anal fissures that occur in about 1 in 350 adults, according to their website.

Stahl says he expects the Fizurex wipe to be FDA approved and come to market by 2026. The company is currently doing preclinical development and is expecting to start animal studies next year.

“The typical FDA approval process takes about 10 years. The way that we’re doing it allows us to get it done in about 5 years, cutting that time in half,” said Stahl. “Because compounded drugs already have some of that safety and efficacy data available that we can leverage.”

Earlier this year, the company took part in the Spring 2021 cohort of the Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA). Following the program, the company successfully closed a seed round led by ISA Ventures.

“ISA was an incredible program,” said Stahl. “They provided my team and me with mentorship and experience that really helped us polish our vision, create a pitch deck, provide company development resources, and initial funding. We came out of the program with a solid business plan, and the next steps in place that led us to partnerships with a drug manufacturer and an FDA regulatory consultant group, and the successful close of our first funding round.”

Steel Therapeutics is increasing access to life-changing therapies | 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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