Filipinos Lead Major Advances in Cancer Diagnosis

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. While the survival rate is more than 90% when detected in stage 1, most ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in stage 4 where survival rate is less than 20%. Currently, there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. But this will be changing very soon.

InterVenn Biosciences is working towards commercializing its blood test for ovarian cancer aimed at distinguishing malignant pelvic tumors from benign ones.

The InterVenn Ovarian Cancer Liquid (VOCAL) biopsy is currently undergoing clinical validation in a global, multi-center clinical trial. In the Philippines, it is being conducted in the Philippine General Hospital, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and The Medical City.

InterVenn was founded by Aldo Carrascoso and Dr. Carlito Lebrilla, Filipinos who have made their marks in technology and medicine in the United States of America. Aside from the founders, Filipinos are also at the helm of the software development and cloud infrastructure efforts. InterVenn has a dedicated team for these based in Ortigas Center, Pasig. However, it is headquartered in the Bay Area in South San Francisco, California, where their main laboratory is located. The company also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.

“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% accuracy that you have the disease at the very, very earliest stage?,” offers Carrascoso. 

That is what they are able to do with glycoproteomics which simply put, delves into the short sugar chain-like attachments on the proteins in our bodies. The alterations of these chains change the general characteristics of cells and can act as cancer indicators.

The science has existed for several decades. But the huge challenge was that  its application required analysis of tons of complex data. Roughly 400,000 graphs have to be interpreted before any result can be generated. So a patient will have to wait for 12 months to know her diagnosis. But InterVenn has brought this down to a mere 12 minutes. “What we did was supercharge the scientists with software and artificial intelligence,” Carrascoso explains. InterVenn utilizes deep learning to automate the entire workflow, including sample processing, instrument calibration, and peak integration, all the way to run-analysis and results generation.

“Precision medicine” is how Carrascoso refers to what they are doing. Behind their mission is a single purpose: that nobody should ever be blindsided by disease.

The biotech company has recently added USD34 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 USD9.4 Million from Genoa Ventures, with participation from True Ventures, Amplify Partners, Boost VC, and Prado SV.

Patients interested to InterVenn’s VOCAL program can visit www.vocal.ph for details. 

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