Filipinos at forefront of changing cancer diagnostic landscape

InterVenn CEO and founder Aldo Carrascoso inspect the lab’s cryogenic machine that keeps the samples taken from patients safe and secure for data gathering.

NOBODY should ever be blindsided by disease. That is the mission that InterVenn Biosciences has set its sights on.

“Genetic tests do not tell you if you have cancer; they only tell you the probability of yourself having cancer. But what if I can tell you with almost 99.9 percent accuracy that you have the disease at the very, very earliest stage?” asks InterVenn Biosciences founder and chief executive officer Aldo Carrascoso.

That is what his team is working on. The InterVenn Ovarian Cancer Liquid biopsy is currently undergoing clinical validation in a global, multi-center clinical trial. VOCAL is a blood test for ovarian cancer aimed at distinguishing malignant pelvic tumors from benign ones.

There is currently no early detection test for ovarian cancer, which is unfortunate because the survival rate is more than 90 percent when detected at an early stage. However, most ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in Stage 4 where survival rate is less than 20 percent. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

“Precision medicine” is how Carrascoso refers to what they are accomplishing by utilizing next generation glycomics, instrumentation and deep machine learning. In the simplest terms, they have delved into the study of glycans or short sugar chain-like attachments on the proteins in our bodies with artificial intelligence. So data that used to take several scientists and 12 months to analyze and interpret can now be processed in 12 minutes.

“What we did was supercharge the scientists,” Carrascoso explains. Deep learning is used to automate the entire workflow, including sample processing, instrument calibration, and peak integration, all the way to run-analysis and results generation.

Behind the the software development and cloud infrastructure efforts are Filipinos at InterVenn’s Pasig office. “Our engineering team in the Philippines takes care of the front end, back end, even security,” he says. The headquarters and main laboratory is located in the Bay Area in South San Francisco, California, where Carrascoso is based. The company also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.

“I’m just proud that the technology, that the solution is from Filipinos,” he says. Carrascoso co-founded InterVenn with fellow Filipino Dr. Carlito Lebrilla, who has made his mark in the field of medicine in the US.

The next step, which is happening very soon, is to commercialize VOCAL (www.vocal.ph). InterVenn is financially prepared for this, with the recent addition of $34 million to its funds raised from Anzu Partners with full participation of seasoned biotech investor Genoa Ventures, Amplify Partners, and True Ventures with Xeraya Capital and Ojjeh Family joining the syndicate as well.

In 2018, InterVenn received an institutional investment of $9.4 million from Genoa Ventures, with participation from True Ventures, Amplify Partners, Boost VC, and Prado SV.

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