Early Stage

Curing Cancer in Dogs

Curing Cancer in Dogs


Raised to Date: Raised: $398,255

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Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

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Rochester, New York

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LEAH Labs, with a valuation cap of $12 million, is raising crowdfunding on Wefunder. The company is developing CAR-T cell therapy to treat cancer in dogs. LEAH Labs has a patented technology that uses CRISPR to harness and reprogram T cells that find and kill cancer cells in dogs. LEAH Labs was founded by an experienced team, including Stephen Carl Ekker, Jonathan Mochel and Saad Kenderian, in 2018. The current crowdfunding round has a minimum raise of $100,000 and a maximum raise of $535,000, and the funds will be used towards pilot efficacy studies and hiring and maintaining talent. LEAH Labs is backed by Y Combinator and is led by Ph.D. experts in gene editing, cell therapy, and veterinary oncology. The company has already built its MVP and is testing its safety right now.

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Financials as of: 03/21/2021
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Raise History

Offering Name Close Date Platform Valuation/Cap Total Raised Security Type Status Reg Type
LEAH Labs 06/29/2021 Wefunder $12,000,000 $398,255 SAFE Funded RegCF
LEAH Labs 02/19/2020 Wefunder $4,000,000 $464,988 SAFE Funded RegCF
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Almost 40% of American households own a dog. That’s more than 76 million canine companions in the US alone. For almost all of these dog owners, their furry friend is truly a member of the family. That’s why it’s so distressing when a dog faces serious medical issues like cancer. 

Roughly one in four dogs will develop tumors at some point in their lifetime. For many of these pups, the tumors are malignant, meaning the dog has cancer. Cancer becomes more prevalent in older dogs — almost half of canines over 10 will be diagnosed. This is devastating news for dog owners, who have to make a very difficult decision: to enter palliative care or to spend thousands of dollars only to delay the inevitable. For dogs diagnosed with lymphoma, owners have the option to spend roughly $5,000 on treatments that would only extend their pet’s life for a year or so. 

LEAH Labs aims to end this heartbreak. The company is developing a cancer cure for dogs rooted in CAR-T cell therapy, a treatment that already cures human patients with lymphoma. By translating proven human medicine into dog treatments, LEAH hopes to find an efficient, less expensive way to extend dogs’ lives. The company is currently conducting clinical trials on its cancer therapy and could be ready to take its cure to market by 2023 or 2024. 

LEAH Labs’ current Wefunder raise has been rated a Neutral Deal by the KingsCrowd investment team. 

Next Section: Price


LEAH Labs is raising a Crowd SAFE at a $12 million valuation with no discount. Notably, this valuation is a full three times higher than what the company listed in an early 2020 round, but the company hasn’t made much progress since that initial raise. There are still several years to go before LEAH Labs can generate any revenue by introducing its cancer therapy to veterinary clinics. All of the capital from this raise will be devoted to funding expensive clinical trials, with little current proof that LEAH’s solution is actually effective. The company is simply at too early a stage to justify this high valuation, so its price rating is quite low.

Next Section: Market


American pet owners spent $18.11 billion on veterinary care in 2018, an increase of 6.1% from 2017. That’s a lot of money spent on pet healthcare, but it’s still a relatively narrow market. Moreover, the cancer care niche within veterinary spending is even smaller. The pet cancer therapeutics market was valued at $178 million in 2018. Analysts predict a healthy CAGR of 10.8% through 2025, but this is still a very niche industry. 

Granted, LEAH Labs seems to be aiming to develop multiple types of pet gene therapies in coming years. It intends to diversify its offerings beyond just lymphoma treatment into more types of cancers and potentially other serious diseases. If LEAH Labs is able to expand to play in a larger category within the veterinary care market, the company has a bit more room to run. Otherwise, its revenue prospects are limited within a small niche. Therefore, the company’s market rating is low.

Next Section: Team


LEAH Labs was founded by Wesley Wierson, who holds a PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology from Iowa State University. Wierson reports significant experience in gene editing. His doctoral dissertation focused on genome writing in zebrafish. In sum, Wierson has more than a decade’s worth of expertise in academic bioscience. 

The LEAH Labs team also includes Alex Abel, who holds a PhD in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Abel joined LEAH last year after serving as a Technical Sales Consultant for Miltenyi Biotec. Before that, he spent 12 years in academia. LEAH also has several “scientific founders” who appear to sit on a scientific advisory board for the company. These advisors include immunology therapists, gene editors, and veterinary pharmacology experts.

The LEAH Labs team has deep scientific experience in gene editing and cellular biology, which is undoubtedly a major criteria for success when leading a company like this one. However, the team has virtually zero business experience, which could prove more and more of a hindrance as the company prepares to bring its cancer therapy to market. Overall, the LEAH team is strong on science skills and weak on business skills. These factors make the company’s team rating middle-of-the-road.

Next Section: Differentiators


LEAH Labs’ specific approach to veterinary treatment development is rooted in applying the basic principles of human healthcare to the care of dogs. The company is purportedly unique in using this specific CAR-T cell therapy to cure canine cancer. However, there are other companies that are further along in developing cancer cures. Tanovea is one example of a therapy that has already received conditional FDA approval. 

LEAH Labs seems to have the potential to develop a unique, effective cancer therapy for dogs that could ultimately come to dominate the veterinary market. If the LEAH treatment proves effective, the company will presumably patent its approach immediately, which would significantly increase its product defensibility. On the other hand, other companies are further along in developing therapies that use different means to achieve the same goal, so LEAH does face competition. Therefore, the company’s differentiation score is middle-of-the-road. 

Next Section: Performance


LEAH Labs is a pre-revenue company, so investors can’t glean any info on proven product-market fit or year-over-year revenue growth statistics. The main factors available for assessing this company’s performance are its fundraising progress and burn rate. 

LEAH was backed by Y Combinator and has raised capital from other investors in addition to its previous crowdfunding raise. It has also made good progress in securing non-dilutive grant funding. It seems as though this capital is being put to good use. LEAH only spent a little over $350,000 on operating expenses last year, primarily on general & administrative line items. 

Overall, the company is well-funded and capital efficient. However, revenue performance gives the best evidence of a company’s potential to succeed, and LEAH hasn’t generated any income yet. As a result, the company’s performance score is only middling. 

Next Section: Risks


LEAH Labs makes for a very risky investment, namely because the company is pre-revenue and future success is entirely dependent on the success of the company’s cell therapy in clinical trials. Investors should consider almost every type of risk as they evaluate this investment, but some of the most notable are financials and team risk. Because the company is pre-revenue, there is zero evidence so far that LEAH has developed a product that can actually generate income in the market. Moreover, the company’s solo founder has no business experience. While he might be qualified to develop a highly scientific gene therapy, there’s no indication yet whether he has the skills to manage a company bringing a complex therapeutic to market. In general, LEAH Labs is a young company with no traction, working on complicated scientific problems that might not bear out.

Next Section: Bearish Outlook

Bearish Outlook

LEAH Labs is an extremely early company with very little proof of concept or evidence that this product could succeed (generate revenue) in the market. Developing a cell therapy treatment of this kind is extremely time-consuming and is subject to a wide variety of setbacks related to clinical trials and compliance. LEAH’s founder acknowledged (in the forum section of LEAH’s Wefunder page) that the company likely won’t be able to go to market until 2023 or 2024. There are still years to go before investors will see any proof that LEAH Labs is actually a viable investment. 

Moreover, the product that LEAH is spending significant time and money to produce caters to a very niche segment of pet owners willing to spend thousands of dollars on their canine companions. The veterinary cancer care market is worth less than $200 million, so LEAH seems to be headed toward a radical misalignment of its valuation (already high) and addressable market size (very small). Investors would be wise to consider these significant risks as they assess an investment. 

Next Section: Bullish Outlook

Bullish Outlook

An investment in LEAH Labs is undoubtedly a bit of a shot in the dark. It will be years before LEAH’s CAR-T cell therapy is approved in clinical trials and probably years more before the company can generate meaningful revenue within the market. However, there are reasons to believe LEAH has what it takes to achieve its goal of curing cancer in dogs. LEAH’s founder and first employee are well-credentialed scientists, and the company is supported by a deeply experienced advisory board. This scientific team is applying a logical approach to canine cancer treatment: adapt a therapy that already works in humans to dogs, in a process with less regulatory hoops to jump through than on the human side. Moreover, burn is relatively low (particularly given the high-tech, development-intensive nature of LEAH’s field), and LEAH has already convinced Y Combinator and other outside investors that it has what it takes to succeed. 

Next Section: Executive Summary

Executive Summary

LEAH Labs aims to cure cancer in dogs with an innovative CAR-T cell therapy that mimics an effective cancer treatment for humans. The company is backed by Y Combinator and other investors, and its founding team has decades of combined experience in gene editing and cell biology. While it’s still early, there are positive signs that LEAH is working toward developing an effective, less expensive way to save dogs’ lives. 

On the other hand, LEAH Labs has very little proof that its treatment will actually work and has years to go before it can gain regulatory approval and bring its product to market. It’s concerning that LEAH is raising another crowdfunding round less than a year after its first one at a three times higher valuation when the company hasn’t made much notable progress since the first round. In addition, LEAH Labs will eventually cater to a market that is very niche. The company will likely need to extend rapidly into other veterinary therapies to survive, which will only add many more years to the horizon of expected returns. Therefore, LEAH Labs has been rated a Neutral Deal. 

For questions regarding the KingsCrowd staff pick or ratings for this company, please reach out to support@kingscrowd.com.

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LEAH Labs on Wefunder
Platform: Wefunder
Security Type: SAFE
Valuation: $12,000,000

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