Cancer is a pervasive killer. Every year, a total of 10 million people succumb to the affliction. And for that, it’s been recognized as one of the largest health problems around the world.
However, Filipino biotech innovator Aldo Carrascoso is trying to change that statistic and is leading the charge against the disease through InterVenn Biosciences, a cutting-edge biotechnology company.
By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and high-throughput glycoproteomic, glycolipodomic, and glycotranscriptomic analysis, Carrascoso and his team of specialists aim to develop solutions to improve the accuracy of cancer detection and treatment.
For those unaware, glycoproteomics involves the study of glycosylated proteins, which are biomarkers for cancer.
“InterVenn focuses on a critical but often misunderstood area of glycoproteomics, also ignored over many decades due to its computational complexity,” Carrascoso said.
“We’ve unlocked this significant biological realm using a next generation platform that utilizes AI, machine learning and advanced molecular instrumentation to immensely enhance the early detection, diagnostic, treatment selection and monitoring processes for various cancers and even other diseases,” he explained further.
Through this, they were able to develop GLORI, the first-ever glycoproteomics-based liquid biopsy test for ovarian cancer. The test, which only requires a blood sample from a patient, helps physicians to precisely determine whether a tumor in a woman’s pelvic region is malignant or benign in nature, making it easier for doctors to provide the right treatment or cancer therapy.
The company is also developing another blood-based test called DAWN—made to assist medical practitioners in properly matching cancer patients with the best immunotherapy treatment using their ‘glyco score’ as the basis.
Just recently, InterVenn received an investment of $201-million from SoftBank, the venture behind successful start-ups like Didi, Grab, Bytedance, Slack, to further develop and commercialize DAWN.
According to Carrascoso, he considers his battle against cancer as a personal mission.
“The work that we do at Intervenn is highly personal. I lost my mother and two close relatives to breast cancer many years ago,” he said.
Carrascoso notes that he found the limited options for diagnosis and treatments frustrating.
“I was frustrated with the lack of choices in the so-called standards-of-care, not to mention the lack of understanding of solutions outside that of the genomic realm as my family does not have any of the known genomic markers,” he added.
It’s the reason why he took matters into his own hands.
“We envision a time when cancer is no longer a problem – and all disease a mere nuisance. We envision a place where previously unrelated disciplines are un-siloed and interact together in unison to pursue a solution. Here, maladies are holistically understood, adequately controlled and even manipulated to benefit all. In pursuit of that vision, we began with PATIENTS in mind as a sole inspiration and driving force – full stop, and not because of a novelty nor to pursue an intellectual trend,” Carrascoso emphasized.
The 43-year-old was born in San Juan, Manila where, at an early age, he was exposed to technology and coding—interests which he carried until his university days at Ateneo de Manila.
In the early 2000s, Carrascoso moved to California’s Silicon Valley, known as the ‘Tech Capital of the World,’ and pursued an MBA at Babson College.
“My journey to Silicon Valley started in a parking lot in Manila – it was my dream to pitch to the world’s top venture capitalists,” he said.
After finishing his degree, he founded his first start-up Verego, a business-to-business (B2B) matchmaking platform. Years later, he built Jukin Media, the worldwide leader in the discovery, acquisition, monetization, and distribution of user-generated content.
“Eventually, through sheer grit, I got investments from the likes of Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, and most recently, SoftBank. I have taken what I have learned and have built teams in the Philippines with the intent of leveraging the country’s untapped talent potential.”
However, this is was just the start for Carrascoso, who’s now being hailedd as the ‘Elon Musk of Philippine tech start-ups.’
In 2014, he established Veem, the first global payment provider to use blockchain technology as a payment rail. For this, he received the Emerging App Partner of the Year in 2017 at the Xero Awards Americas and was honored at the Benzinga Global Fintech Awards in 2019.
Three years after, he founded InterVenn Biosciences with fellow Filipino Dr. Carlito Lebrilla, Ph.D., a glycoproteomic pioneer, and professor at the University of California Davis.
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Image credit: InterVenn Biosciences