InterVenn Biosciences raises $34 million to accelerate cancer test development with AI
November 16, 2020
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InterVenn Biosciences, a startup developing a platform for precision medicine, today raised $34 million in funding. The startup says it will put the funds toward accelerating its go-to-market, expansion, and ongoing product R&D efforts.

Mass spectrometry, a technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of ions, can be applied to genomics studies with implications for clinical medicine. But it usually requires extensive, time-consuming analysis to arrive at interpretable, actionable information and still doesn’t address the issues of accuracy and reproducibility.

InterVenn was founded in 2017 by former Veem CTO Aldo Carrascoso; Stanford chemistry professor Carolyn Bertozzi; University of California, Berkeley biochemistry professor Carlito Lebrilla; and ex-Stemcentrx head of mass spectrometry Lieza Marie Danan. The company claims its AI-imbued product automates the discovery of biomarkers (indicators of the severity of some diseases) and even the design of certain clinical trials. InterVenn combines hardware, wetware, and software to develop project-specific workflows that enable the creation of laboratory diagnostic tests intended for clinical use. A suite of machine learning algorithms aid with signal detection, verification, and quantification, as well as quality system monitoring, risk stratification, and untargeted discovery.

The InterVenn platform targets glycans (i.e., carbohydrates), one of the four major classes of biomacromolecules present in all lifeforms. The sequence and composition of glycans — trees of sugar chains consisting of hundreds of atoms — are adaptive to environmental changes driven by pathways involving genetic and environmental factors. Aberrant glycosylation of proteins, a process that plays a critical role in determining protein structure, has been implicated in key steps of disease biology — including the hallmarks of cancer, as well as inflammation associated with autoimmunity and aging. That’s one of the reasons the majority of protein cancer markers cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are glycoproteins.

InterVenn customers gain access to the company’s glycoprotein database and discovery platform that allows them to identify biomarkers of potential interest. InterVenn claims its platform is the first that can assess protein glycosylation in a site-specific manner across thousands of amino acid strings.

For instance, InterVenn is facilitating VOCAL (InterVenn Ovarian Cancer Liquid Biopsy), a study aiming to validate a blood test that might help doctors diagnose whether an ovarian tumor is malignant or benign. The company is also pursuing research in colorectal cancer and kidney cancer as it hunts for “clinically actionable” biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis, and cancer recurrence detection, as well as predictive tests for therapy selection, treatment prediction, and monitoring.

“While we’ve known about glycoproteomics for more than 15 years, we’ve been unable to do much with it solely because of the massive amounts of data it generates,” Carrascoso told VentureBeat via email. “It was too time-consuming and had too much possibility for error for any human computation. When my family was very personally affected by cancer and I met Carlito and heard about his work, I wanted to use my tech background to help solve these problems. I’m very proud of the huge strides we have made in getting glycoproteomics to be ready for the clinical stage and to make a difference for patients and help them make more informed treatment decisions that are right based on their own biology and that of their disease.”

InterVenn recently claimed to have identified “marked differences” in the glycoproteomic profile of patients who became seriously ill with COVID-19 compared with those who were asymptomatic. The company says its AI-informed analysis of nearly 100 blood samples at its South San Francisco lab could shed light on the history of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and might relate to interindividual differences in susceptibility.

Anzu Partners led this latest series B round, along with Xeraya Capital, Oriza Ventures, the Ojjeh Family, and the Korenvaes Family, bringing New York-based InterVenn’s total raised to over $45 million. InterVenn raised $9.4 million in December 2018.

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