By Alex Bisignano

Phosphorus – Illuminating the Biological Code

Author’s note: This is the first post in a new blog series called The Nucleus, written by me, Alex Bisignano, CEO of Phosphorus. In it I’ll share my musings, rants, and hopefully a few insightful perspectives, on the colliding world of healthcare, big data, and genomics. Enjoy!

Over the past few months, a group from the team at Recombine has undertaken the task of forming a new company. Following the sale of the commercial assets of Recombine, as well as the announcement of our Series A fundraise (led by our amazing partners at FirstMark Capital), I would like to introduce Phosphorus: a computational genomics company with the mission to better understand and harness the human genome.

Illuminating the Human Genome

With roots in clinical genetic testing, Phosphorus is set to tackle a very big mission. In 2003, the human genome was finally sequenced after a decade-long government project costing ~$3 billion. While that task took nearly 13 costly years to accomplish, rapid advances in technology now allow us, another 13 years later, to sequence an entire human genome in just a few weeks for under $1,500.

Despite this incredible advance in sequencing capacity, the impact of genomics in medicine has taken some time to catch up with our expectations of the compiled human code. While just over 50% of the adult population reports interest in genetic testing, only 6% reports personally having undergone a genetic test. The reason for this disparity is no longer the difficulty of sequencing, nor cost, it is access.

The Path of Phosphorus

At Phosphorus, our goal is to leverage our expertise in bioinformatics and computer science to increase access to genomics by helping to further decrease the cost of genetic testing. In doing so, we are building a clinical genomics network that helps us gain better insights into the causes of even more human diseases. We bring to our task our powerful software and data science from the days at Recombine, and we will be working to make our testing available to clinical partners around the world. Our approach is multifaceted:

Phosphorus Diagnostics: We will be launching new diagnostic tests across several medical specialties at higher quality and lower cost through our own CLIA-certified clinical laboratory. By working with leading physicians around the country, we hope to start collecting clinical data to build the case for genomics in areas of medicine currently underserved.

Phosphorus Software: For many larger hospitals, patient centers, and healthcare networks, the ability to further manage complex testing in-house is a major value-add to their patients. We have built the science and software to easily bring Next Generation Sequencing to any CLIA-certified laboratory.

Phosphorus Research: As we expand both our direct laboratory work as well as partnerships with laboratories operating on our software, we hope to revolutionize the way genomics research is conducted. To bridge the gap between our genomes and our health we must build a clinical network where our greatest researchers and practitioners can share data and findings.

Why “Phosphorus”?

Phosphorus is best known as the 15th element on the periodic table. The name is taken from ancient Greek mythology, translating literally into “light-bearer” or “bringer of light”. The first isolated form of the element emitted a glow.

In biology, we are often taught that carbon is the backbone of organic life. However, if we think about carbon as essential to the physical infrastructure upon which all life is built, we can think about phosphorus as essential to the energy that powers life. Phosphorus is a major component in Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the fuel that makes the body function, and it is essential in DNA and RNA, the molecules which make up the human genome.

Beyond the mythological and scientific treatises behind this life-essential element, Phosphorus also represents the team behind our mission. We are scientists at the core: curious and continuously asking questions. We embrace our nerdy sides. Our diverse backgrounds from computer science, data science, bioinformatics, and developmental biology to nursing, music, Russian literature and finance allow us to bring a unique perspective to human genomics. At the end of the day, each of us wants to solve difficult and meaningful problems that will optimize the delivery of healthcare.

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