This Global Healthcare Startup Working on Early Cancer Detection and Co-Founded by a Filipino Just Opened a Manila Office
In 2020, we wrote about a healthcare startup co-founded by a Filipino that is working on groundbreaking technology that could potentially alter current methods of cancer detection and diagnosis.
Intervenn Biosciences developed a proprietary platform powered by AI involving glycoproteomics, or the study of a subset of proteins that is present in all living creatures. Glycoproteins have become a sort of “biomarker” that doctors can examine to tell if someone is likely to develop diseases, including cancer. Through Intervenn’s platform and products, doctors can now tell with a fair degree of certainty whether a patient has or will develop certain types of cancer.
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Intervenn officials and consultants (from left) Randy Barr (chief information and security officer), Axel Kornerup (general manager of the Philippines office), Dr. Trixie Tiangco (consulting scientist), Dan Serie (chief data officer), Erwin Estigarribia (chief operating officcer)
On Friday (July 22), Intervenn welcomed members of the media to its brand new office in the heart of Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Although the company’s headquarters is in San Francisco, California U.S.A., about half of its global workers are Filipinos, which is why it made sense to open a hub in Manila.
In addition, company officials disclosed that Intervenn has raised $201 million (about P11.3 billion) in a Series C funding round in 2021, which brings its total funding to over P13 billion since it was founded in 2017.
“Our cash position is enviable even in these markets,” said Erwin Estigarribia, Intervenn’s COO, at the event. “We have come out of stealth mode for the last financial raise, which was $201 million. We are actively collaborating with multiple key opinion leaders across various diseases, additional hospitals that now have a conviction and thirst to utilize our technology and explore that further. We have multiple partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotech companies and we are continuing to continuing to expand our footprint and align with governments that want to bring this technology and lower costs and access to patients.
“So I think that you will hear more over the next 12 months of potential large stories that we can share with you. We are very, very bullish on where we are from a financing point of view and we’re proud of that."
Intervenn's co-founder Aldo Carrascoso
Two of Intervenn’s proprietary testing platforms illustrate the company’s thrust of shifting focus from disease management to preventive care and health management. The first is DAWN, which is a blood-based test aimed at helping physicians appropriately match cancer patients to the best possible immuno-oncology therapy. The other is GLORI, which the company claims is “the world’s first glycoproteomic, liquid-biopsy laboratory-developed test (LDT) for ovarian cancer diagnosis that has been validated using both retrospective patient samples and samples collected prospectively in InterVenn’s VOCAL clinical trial.”
VOCAL (Intervenn Ovarian Cancer Liquid biopsy) is the company’s initial study that is essentially a clinical decision-making tool for ovarian cancer. Through a simple blood test, doctors can examine a pelvic mass in a woman and be able to distinguish malignant pelvic tumors from benign ones. It’s a significant step in the fight against ovarian cancer considering that the disease is commonly detected when it is in its later stages.
Carrascoso, who has a family history of cancer that he says led him to co-found Intervenn alongside scientists and educators Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi from Stanford and Dr. Carlito LeBrilla from UC Davis, said that he was looking forward to further working with Filipino engineers and data professionals to ensure that “no one should ever be blindsided by disease.”
One hundred percent of Intervenn’s software is made in the Philippines, with over 100 Filipinos working on the software engineering stream. According to the company's estimates, the opening of the Philippines office is expected to pump an additional half a billion pesos to the local economy.
“This is not a sprint. This is a marathon,” said Estigarribia. “And so we owe this challenge and this level of attention and persistence for a very long set of products that will enable and impact healthcare.”