InterVenn Biosciences has raised $34 million to commercialize a new diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer, based on the identification of circulating proteins containing sugar molecules (glycoproteins).
The company expects to validate the diagnostic tool intended for immediate clinical use and drive rapidly expanding partnership projects. The funding will also help accelerate the use of glycoproteins in other cancer indications.
“I’m humbled but inspired by the task of driving glycoproteomics as a new diagnostic nomenclature to stratify patients, classify disease, and spawn new medical innovation,” John Leite, PhD, chief business officer of InterVenn, said in a press release.
Protein glycosylation — the addition of sugar molecules, or glycans — is the most common and complex form of post-translational protein modification that cells use to adapt to environmental changes and other challenges.
Abnormal protein glycosylation has been implicated in important steps of disease biology, including in cancer development, autoimmunity, and aging. As such, researchers can examine glycans and glycosylated proteins in patients to discover uniquely informative disease biomarkers.
While glycoproteins have been difficult to study in the past, InterVenn has developed a platform that overcomes prior challenges. Its proprietary platform, VISTA, combines artificial intelligence and mass spectrometry (a technique that allows the identification of a substance’s components based on their mass) to analyze tumor-associated changes in circulating glycoproteins.
This biomarker research product may be used in the pursuit of new solutions for over a dozen different oncology indications, including ovarian, pancreatic, liver, prostate, and kidney cancer.
“InterVenn enables a powerful new class of cancer diagnostics based on glycobiology,” said David Michael, managing partner of Anzu Partners, which participated in the fundraising. “Advances in computation and chemistry will enable its unique, high throughput platform to have a dramatic positive impact on human health.”
VISTA is the first commercially available panel capable of assessing blood protein glycosylation in a site-specific manner across thousands of peptides (protein fragments) and glycopeptides (peptides that contain glycans).
“Our research and clinical partners continue to be astounded at the type of data we are able to generate and are bullish about the work we do together, even with all the challenges that [last] year has presented everyone globally, creating an environment and need for the immediate use of glycobiology in the clinic and research laboratories,” said Aldo Carrascoso, CEO of InterVenn.
Using its proprietary platform, the company has identified a set of glycoproteins that may aid in the earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer, “all through a simple blood test,” according to its website.
This liquid biopsy is expected to provide information as to whether a tumor is malignant and requires surgery, or a benign condition such as a cyst that can be managed through observation and follow-up, avoiding unnecessary and possibly harmful surgery.
The decision-making tool, called VOCAL, is being investigated in a trial with the same name (NCT03837327), which is recruiting a total of 1,200 adult women suspected of having a tumor in the pelvic area, after undergoing an imaging scan.
Enrollment is ongoing at 21 sites across the the U.S., Australia, and Southeast Asia, and the trial is expected to be completed in April 2021. More information is available here.
The trial is investigating if the VOCAL tool is better than the widely used ovarian cancer biomarker, CA125, at distinguishing people with cancer from those with benign problems. Results so far indicate that glycoprotein tool performs better than the standard test.