Image via InterVenn

By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter 

INTERVENN BIOSCIENCES, a Filipino-founded biotechnology company based in the US, is bringing its early cancer detection tests powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to the Philippines. 

The San Francisco-based firm — which recently opened its local headquarters in The Podium in Ortigas business district, Mandaluyong City — aims to recruit more local talent

“We are bringing resources into the Philippines. We expect that, by the end of 2022, InterVenn will have brought over half a billion pesos into the Philippine economy,” said Axel Kornerup, InterVenn’s general manager, at the July 22 launch.  

“As of today, we have over 150 Filipino employees based in the Philippines, majority of which are software developers,” he added.  

The InterVenn Ovarian Cancer Liquid Biopsy (VOCAL) testing program is an ongoing collaboration with local oncologists from the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, The Medical City, and the Philippine General Hospital.  

InterVenn’s goal is for the next-generation liquid biopsy diagnostic test to determine whether a person has cancer with only a drop of blood. Though it’s being developed for ovarian cancer, there are earlier stage studies being done for liver cancer.  

According to Dr. Beatrice J. Tiangco, oncologist and InterVenn consulting scientist, a traditional biopsy, requested by a doctor after finding an abnormal mass in a person, requires invasive surgery.  

A quick finger prick is an easier option in comparison, especially for Filipinos who may have a fear of surgical procedures, she said.  

“While traditional tests would take at least seven days to get a result, the new liquid biopsy test may be able to reduce that to minutes or seconds,” Dr. Tiangco added.  

InterVenn aims to make the test available soon, with significant progress by the middle of next year. Though it may be made into a home testing kit or added to annual physical exams in the future, the company is focused for now on ensuring high testing accuracy.  

In 2021, the company received P10 billion in funding to develop Dawn, a blood-based test that can assist doctors in matching cancer patients to immuno-oncology therapies.   

Previously, it had developed Glori, a test that can determine whether pelvic tumors in women are benign or malignant with 86% accuracy. Both tests are possible through an AI-enabled software platform that can perform glycoproteomic analysis.   

Aldo Carrascoso, the Filipino co-founder and chief executive officer of InterVenn, explained that glycoproteomics is basically the study of sets of proteins in the body and the sugars attached to them. Analyzing these helps in identifying cancer biomarkers and developing liquid biopsy cancer detection tests.   

The fact that 90% of drugs and diagnostics were created primarily for a Western demographic motivated InterVenn to be an “Asian-centric company,” he added.  

Mr. Carrascoso founded the firm in 2017 with two multi-awarded scientists: Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi, a chemist and professor at Stanford University in California; and Dr. Carlito LeBrilla, a researcher and distinguished professor of chemistry at University of California, Davis.