Technology and innovation have always come hand in hand. When fueled by a moral purpose, the bond yields results capable of changing industries and generations.
InterVenn Biosciences CEO Aldo Carrascoso had his mind set on one thing when he and his team developed VOCAL: he wanted to provide fast and accessible treatment to cancer patients.
VOCAL is a first-of-its-kind glycoproteomics-based ovarian cancer liquid biopsy diagnostic that helps physicians determine whether a tumor in a woman’s pelvic region is malignant or not. The Filipino entrepreneur and his co-founding partners, Dr. Carlito Lebrilla Ph.D and Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi Ph.D., generated the solution driven by the challenges faced by Carrascoso’s family in the past.
“The work that we do at Intervenn is highly personal. I lost my mother and two close relatives to breast cancer many years ago,” Carrascoso said. “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.”
Carrascoso’s InterVenn has been developing various solutions for cancer using the powerful combination of next-generation artificial intelligence and high-throughput glycoproteomic, glycolipodomic, and glycotranscriptomic analysis.
He explained, “InterVenn focuses on a critical but often misunderstood area of glycoproteomics, also ignored over many decades due to its computational complexity. 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.”
Technology is the hallmark of Carrascoso’s InterVenn venture. This comes as no coincidence since being innovative is in the CEO’s DNA.
The 43-year-old Carrascoso was born and raised in San Juan, Metro Manila. He was already engaged in coding as early as third grade. He made his first television set during fourth grade and his first radio the following year.
Part of his experience taking up BS Psychology and other minors at the Ateneo De Manila University involved conversations, which taught him that the key to a business’s success is its people—never the sales and its operations.
Years after graduating from the university in 2000, Carrascoso flew out of the country to fulfill his dream in Silicon Valley. In an email interview with Speed, the entrepreneur recalled how his journey to the global center of tech innovation began in a parking lot in Makati
Carrascoso said that it was in that area where he found himself “contemplating the result of my Graduate Management Admission Test and what it meant for my future. That’s when I visualized pitching to the top venture capital firms in Sand Hill Road, Palo Alto.”
“After that, I pursued an MBA in Entrepreneurship in Babson F.W. Olin School of Business from 2006 to 2008,” he added.
“I wrote an essay back in 2004 that explicitly said i would start a company that would utilize ‘AI diagnosis and treatment technology for disease management.’ that essay hangs on my wall…reminding me of how long it takes to make the future happen.”
Heeding the call to revolutionize healthcare
Carrasco’s higher purpose in business came to view after the entrepreneur ventured into several trades prior to building InterVenn.
Shortly after completing his masters degree, Carrascoso founded his first start-up Verego—a B2B matchmaking platform, which he exited a few years later. He then went on to build content marketing company Jukin Media.
His next venture, Veem, holds the distinction of being the first in the industry to use blockchain technology as an online payment rail in 2014. The company was awarded the Emerging App Partner of the Year for 2017 at the Xero Awards Americas.
In that same year, Carrascoso built his San Francisco-based biotech company, InterVenn Biosciences.
“I wrote an essay back in 2004 that explicitly said I would start a company that would utilize ‘AI diagnosis and treatment technology…[for] disease management,’” he recalled to Speed. “That essay hangs on my wall in South San Francisco reminding me of how long it takes to make the future happen.”
“I had no idea how I was going to do it since I wasn’t a scientist per se. InterVenn is the realization of that mission,” Carrascoso said.
Apart from VOCAL, the company is also developing several other tools that will help doctors in key decision making. This includes the DAWN test, which aids in properly matching cancer patients with the best immunotherapy based on their “glyco score.”
Like any startup, InterVenn has its fair share of challenges. For one, the team has to ensure that every project is at par with the fundamental canons of healthcare.
“High throughput glycoproteomics analysis is incredibly complex. We are in the process of scaling our clinical operations to ensure that we meet regulatory requirements and clinical grade standards,” Carrascoso told Speed.
Another is the funding of InterVenn’s highly scientific programs. “Eventually through sheer grit, I got investments from the likes of Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures and most recently, SoftBank,” Carrascoso said.
The $201 million Series C financing that SoftBank provided InterVenn will be used to fund the development and commercialization of DAWN.
He added, “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.”
Carrascoso has gone a long way. And this journey, which started all the way from a parking lot in Manila, is one he devotes himself to for the betterment of society. The Pinoy innovator hopes that five years from now, Glycoproteomics will become mainstream and InterVenn’s DAWN will be “part of the standards of care in various disease management scenarios globally.”
As a true man for others, Carrascoso wishes that his team’s extensive efforts in developing healthcare solutions will grant one of his co-founders a Nobel Laureate “probably or hopefully for Chemistry or Biology.”
All these, combined with his unyielding passion for others’ well-being, prove that Carrascoso is fated to make a difference in the world and put his home country on the global map of medical breakthroughs.