Up & Running with Dr. Andres Acosta, Founder and Ross Higgins, COO of Phenomix Sciences

Andres J. Acosta, M.D., Ph.D., focuses his research on gastrointestinal physiology to understand the complexity of food intake regulation and obesity. Obesity is a primary cause of type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Dr. Acosta’s laboratory utilizes a combination of genetics, physiology, pharmacology, proteomics, metabolomics, and gastrointestinal and brain imaging to understand food intake regulation and to modulate them for the treatment of obesity. In collaboration with his mentor, Michael Camilleri, M.D., Dr. Acosta is using cutting-edge techniques to understand the pharmacotherapy and pharmacogenomics of obesity.

Dr. Acosta’s main focus is on the mechanisms and regulation of appetite, satiation and satiety, including the role of gastric function, gastrointestinal hormones, taste preferences, bile acids, and enterohepatic regulation and gut energy utilization. Additionally, Dr. Acosta studies the effect of genetics, pharmacology and endoscopic devices on food intake regulation.

Ross Higgins is the Chief Operating Officer at Phenomix with responsibility for establishment and management oversight of laboratory and company operations. Ross brings over 10 years of experience in operations and management within laboratory and biotech startups.

Most recently, he was responsible for establishing and running a CAP/CLIA accredited laboratory for the Minneapolis based OneOme, a pharmacogenomics company also co-founded by Mayo Clinic where he served as Sr. Director of Laboratory Operations and Clinical Development for 3 years before joining Phenomix. In his prior roles with other laboratory and biotech startups, Ross has overseen the development and launch of several successful new products and services for the human genetics and agrigenomics space. Ross has a B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Science and an M.B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University. He also maintains ASCP certification as a Medical Laboratory Scientist.

What is Phenomix Sciences?

Phenomix Sciences is a startup coming out of Mayo Clinic that is bringing forward a new platform technology that will completely change the way obesity is treated and managed. Our first product is a novel set of biomarkers supported by an AI-driven algorithm that will characterize the underlying signature of obesity. This can be applied clinically to guide therapy selections and drastically improve weight loss outcomes for the nearly 40% of adults in the U.S. struggling with obesity. In short, its precision medicine for obesity. 

Why participate in MedTech Innovator?

MedTech Innovator is a unique program that offers startups like Phenomix the chance to get in front of a field of experts that are already aware of the opportunities and challenges in our particular space. Pitching this week had the unexpected benefit of many new connections to executives at payers, VC groups, and other companies under the medtech umbrella. And if we continue through the next several stages of the program, that benefit will only continue to grow. Of course, there is a shot for $350,000 in non-dilutive funding for the top company in the program, but the other benefits and exposure we stand to gain is probably worth far more than that.

What’s next for the company?

We’ve reached a big milestone this month with our seed round and have given ourselves the green light to get our laboratory established so we can begin preparing for the soft launch of the test this summer. We have lined up over 20 commitments for pilot sites around the country that are incredibly eager to begin implementing this tool in their practice. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and it is clear to us that clinicians treating obesity have been waiting for a tool that can help them treat and manage their patient’s weight more effectively. In parallel, we are raising our Series A round.

Up & Running is an interview series with Medical Alley’s early stage leaders on what they see as the future of healthcare and why their company is well-positioned to be part of it. Medical Alley Association’s membership includes leaders in healthcare delivery, payment, technology, and policy, which gives us – and in turn, you – access to diverse perspectives on how healthcare is changing and what lies ahead.

Medical Alley is the global epicenter of health innovation and care; Up & Running, is meant to share insights and spark discussion. If you have a perspective on the future of healthcare, feel free to share it by reaching out to Frank Jaskulke, Vice President of Intelligence at fjaskulke@medicalalley.org

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