“A non-viral gene editing platform for cell therapies and translational autoimmune disease modeling”
MEDICAL ALLEY, Minnesota (March 1st, 2022) — LEAH Labs, a Y Combinator-backed companion animal biotechnology company building a better future for pets and their humans, has been awarded a $337,443 National Institute of Health (NIH) Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant (SBIR) (Award #R43TR003743-01A1). The funding from this NIH SBIR will be used to expand LEAH Labs’ pipeline to create new, non-viral molecular tools to engineer cell therapies, with a focus on those for autoimmune diseases.
Historically, cell therapies have been engineered through the use of lentiviral gene delivery, which is efficient but also exorbitantly expensive at GMP-grade and brings the risk of insertional mutagenesis attributed to the random integration in the genome. LEAH Labs’ core gene editing technology, GeneWeld, is a non-viral gene editing system that allows scientists to target exogenous DNA encoding proteins of interest into genomic sites at base-pair resolution.
“Since inception, we’ve built LEAH Labs with the vision to bring innovations to our furry family members that wouldn’t be possible without our founding expertise in gene editing technology,” said Dr. Wes Wierson, co-founder and CEO of LEAH Labs. “The aims of this SBIR were specifically crafted to enhance our gene editing platform and to build a proof-of-concept cell therapy system for autoimmune diseases in dogs and humans, building and strengthening core company intellectual property.”
There are over 100,000,000 companion dogs in the US, with 6,000,000 being diagnosed with cancer every year, and countless suffering from the same diseases that afflict humans, such as Crohn’s, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, dogs and humans share numerous analogous diseases, such that research in canines can benefit humans – and vice versa.
“With the recent advances in genomics, precision medicine, and cell and gene therapy, we are seeing a renewed interest from human pharmaceuticals in companion animals as model systems to streamline and accelerate development of the most promising therapeutic leads. This concept, known as One Health, also provides a significant opportunity to develop parallel therapies for humans and their four-legged friends” said LEAH Labs Scientific Founder and veterinary pharmacologist Dr. Jon Mochel.
Dr. Wierson added “We’ve now won $784,000 in non-dilutive funding, including a National Science Foundation Phase I SBIR and a handful of Iowa and Minnesota state-level grants. The addition of NIH to our impressive list of grantors is the strongest outside validation to date of our platform gene editing technology and vision for translational cell therapy modeling in dogs.”
LEAH Labs’ initial product, a CAR-T cell therapy for dogs with cancer, is entering pilot trials in patient dogs in Q2, 2022. On recent funding momentum, LEAH Labs is currently recruiting a Research Scientist and Research Technician that will help them accelerate their R&D pipeline.
About LEAH Labs: LEAH Labs is building a better future for pets and their humans. They use innovative gene editing technologies to make living therapy, like CAR-T cell therapy, accessible and affordable to the veterinary market. In addition to building therapies for unmet market needs in pets, LEAH Labs aims to use spontaneous diseases in dogs to better model the outcomes of novel cell and gene therapy assets than the current state of the art. www.leahlabs.com
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.