Phosphorus CEO Alex Bisignano
By Jarrett Banks
The genomics-as-a-service model was flying high before the Covid-19 pandemic. But Phosphorus Chief Executive Officer Alex Bisignano couldn’t sit still. The New York-based firm secured FDA emergency use authorization for in-home saliva-based testing and recently announced a partnership with an app called Citizen to enable contact tracing.
In an interview with IPO Edge, Bisignano said the company is poised to scale its genetic testing along with the new work on Covid-19. The full interview is below:
IPO Edge: The at-home Covid-10 test is incredibly timely right now and you received FDA authorization in June. What’s the latest?
Interest in the test has been strong and we’re quickly approaching our capacity, while we also plan for significant expansion. Options are still limited for patient-friendly testing outside of a clinical setting and nationally, turnaround times have been unreliable. This means there is still a significant market for the individuals and organizations who are looking for ways to safely re-enter workplaces, schools and family gatherings. We have been working with multiple different types of organizations, including clinics and employers. In addition, we have some innovative partnerships with national retail pharmacies and the Citizen mobile app with SafePass contact tracing feature.
IPO Edge: How does the saliva test differ from the nasal test?
Our validation data was based in comparison to the standard nasopharyngeal swab test. We found comparable performance between that and our saliva-based method, which was part of the FDA’s decision to grant the Emergency Use Authorization.
IPO Edge: What’s your current capacity in terms of testing and how do you plan to scale up?
We can currently run just under 1,000 tests per day. We are actively scaling that up in the coming weeks, both by adding more equipment and personnel, and also by licensing our protocols to other laboratories with substantial capacity potential.
IPO Edge: What’s the latest on your genetic testing business?
Demand for genetic testing is returning to pre-pandemic levels. We are nearly back to the testing volumes we had in January and February 2020. We’re also resuming conversations that were put on hold as well as working with new opportunities. Much like the rest of health care, we knew it was just a matter of time. The information that is gained through our genetic tests is too important to neglect.
IPO Edge: You’ve been a successful entrepreneur for a while now. What lessons are you carrying over from those experiences into Phosphorus?
Building the best team is important. Spending time on investing in and doing the things you are uniquely good at is important. Communication is important. A culture that acknowledges a need to constantly evolve is important. These are things that I believe to be essential in building our business. I have also been humbled by how different companies have different needs: the lessons I have learned at Phosphorus are just as valuable and numerous as my previous company, if not more so.
IPO Edge: You’ve been building your executive team in the past two years. How have those hires helped the company?
Our vision at Phosphorus is a world where genomics is a key part of everyone’s healthcare journey. To accomplish this, we have needed to bring on incredible leaders in the fields of clinical genetics, molecular diagnostics, managed care, real world clinical evidence, software engineering and much more. The diversity of skill sets to run this business requires an executive team that can communicate well about complex issues – and reach the right decision often.
IPO Edge: Do you have a timeline for how Covid-19 testing will play out? Will you return to genetic testing as your main business?
As you might guess, it’s tough to predict how things will go. We anticipate testing to be a national need at least through early 2021. If a vaccine is introduced, a lot will depend on its availability to the general public. If it is limited or targeted to specific populations, then our assumption is that testing will remain as a key containment measure.
That said, we are properly building our organization to accomplish two goals simultaneously – a robust COVID-19 testing product that keeps our company healthy and meets clients’ needs, and a refocusing on our unique genomics-as-a-service model that provides users with long-term capabilities for integrating genomics into their own practices and organizations.
IPO Edge: Where are you at in your capital raising needs?
We recently closed a Series A round of financing. The business, even prior to COVID-19, was on a pathway towards profitability as we have a scalable model for deploying our genomic services that allows us to be capital efficient while growing quickly. That being said, while COVID-19 was a temporal pivot into a new area, we are now well suited to scale both our existing business line and our new work infectious disease.