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Filipino Innovator And Entrepreneur Revolutionizing Global Fight Against Cancer

Filipino Innovator And Entrepreneur Revolutionizing Global Fight Against Cancer
Aldo Carrascoso, co-founder and chief executive officer of InterVenn Biosciences

Aldo Carrascoso, a Filipino innovator and entrepreneur, has been making waves on the international stage as his company changes the global fight against cancer and strives to find a comprehensive solution for the dreaded disease.

Carrascoso is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Intervenn Biosciences, a cutting-edge biotech company. Biotechnology utilizes biological systems, living organisms or parts of this to develop or create different products.

Together with his team of scientists, specialists and operators, Carrascoso is counting on the powerful combination of next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) and high-throughput glycoproteomic, glycolipodomic and glycotranscriptomic analysis. Glycoproteomics, the study of glycans (generic term for any sugar, in free form or attached to another molecule, used interchangeably with carbohydrates) and their carrier proteins in a system-wide context, is becoming a powerful tool in glycobiology (the study of the structure, function and biology of carbohydrates) that enables the functional analysis of protein glycosylation.

Based on Intervenn’s website, glycosylation is the process of attaching sugar molecules to a variety of biological materials such as proteins. It is essential for normal cell and organ functions, but alterations have been associated with a variety of diseases including cancer.

“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,” Carrascoso said.

“Introducing AI-driven mass spectronomy to the glycoproteomic data my co-founders have in hand, we exist today to revisit the health-disease spectrum with an unprecedented and exclusive focus on the ‘Glycoverse’ and how we utilize various disciplines to equally and unequivocally improve patient care,” Carrascoso told The Philippine STAR / OneNews.PH in an e-mail interview.

Mass spectronomy is an instrumental method for identifying the chemical constitution of a substance by means of the separation of gaseous ions according to their differing mass and charge. An ion is a particle, atom or molecule with a net electrical charge.

How it all began

InterVenn Biosciences was established in 2017. The company is based in San Francisco, California. Carrascoso co-founded the company with fellow Filipino Dr. Carlito Lebrilla, a glycoproteomic pioneer and professor at the University of California Davis; and Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi, a luminary in glycobiology and chemistry professor at Stanford University.

Carrascoso’s journey to his biotech venture was  driven by personal experiences in the past. He lost his mother and a cousin to breast cancer in 1993 and 2018, respectively. Another cousin died of colorectal cancer in 2019.

“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 said.

Genomics is the study of all of a person's genes (the genome), including interactions of those genes with each other and with the person's environment.

According to the 43-year-old Carrascoso, who was raised in San Juan City, one of their breakthroughs is GLORI, a liquid-biopsy diagnostic test capable of differentiating between malignant and benign female pelvic tumors. With an overall accuracy of 86%, GLORI outperforms all other currently available blood-based tests used to manage patients with suspected ovarian cancer. 

The test marks a significant milestone for the company as they seek to establish its proprietary mass-spectrometry-based, AI-powered technology to efficiently deploy glycoproteomic diagnostic tests for a range of indications, Carrascoso explained.

Aside from this, they are also developing several other tools such as the DAWN test or liquid biopsy that helps physicians in properly matching cancer patients with the best immunotherapy based on their “glyco score.”

“We are in the process of scaling our clinical operations to ensure that we meet regulatory requirements and clinical grade standards,” Carrascoso said.

Recently, SoftBank, venture fund behind Didi, Grab, Bytedance, Slack, invested a $201-million financing for the company. This will be used for the development and commercialization of DAWN.

Carrascoso was born in a tech-focused family. He was already engaged in coding as early as third grade. He made his first television set and first radio in his fourth and fifth grades, respectively.

In 2000, Carrascoso took up his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at the Ateneo De Manila University.

After that, he moved to Silicon Valley in California and pursued a Master of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship at the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business from 2006 to 2008.

“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 noted. “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.”

Carrascoso has been leaving a mark in the start-up scene particularly in innovation, healthcare, and entrepreneurship in the United States for several years now.

After finishing his master’s degree, he founded his first start-up, Verego, a business-to-business (B2B) matchmaking platform, which he left after a few years. He then went on to build Jukin Media, the worldwide leader in the discovery, acquisition, monetization, and distribution of user-generated content.

His next venture, Veem, a next-generation global payment provider, holds the distinction of being the first in the industry to use blockchain technology as a payment rail in 2014. The company was awarded the Emerging App Partner of the Year for 2017 at the Xero Awards Americas and honored in 2019 at the Benzinga Global Fintech Awards.

The Filipino businessman has earned the moniker “Elon Musk of Philippine tech start-ups” following his string of successful tech-centric business ventures known for their disruptive and transformative effects.

From dreaming in a parking lot in the Philippines, the serial entrepreneur has gone a long way as he is now on the path to changing the global biotech, tools, and diagnostics game with positive results impacting the health and lives of many.

“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 said.

“To those that have spent countless hours, degrees, careers, resources, and other sacrifices, we are here to contribute to this universal effort – a solution so no person is ever blindsided and a cure for those who will need it. We challenge you to act on your imagination,” he added.