Up & Running With Mark Bagnall, CEO, Phenomix Sciences

May 7  

Mark Bagnall is an accomplished entrepreneur and business manager in the healthcare industry. He is currently CEO of Phenomix Sciences, having held roles as CEO, COO and CFO during his career and has served on the boards of several public and private biotechnology companies. In the past 6 years, Mark has co-founded three start-ups and has advised and invested in several others.

Before joining Phenomix in 2021, Mark worked with the American Medical Association’s innovation subsidiary, Health2047, as an Executive-in-Residence. In that role he evaluated new business opportunities in chronic diseases, diagnostics and data.

Before Health2047, Mark served in several leadership roles, including COO of Naia Rare Diseases, a company developing drugs for rare gastrointestinal disorders, and CEO of GenturaDx, a Chinese American diagnostics company. Both companies had successful exits.

In addition to his role as CEO of Phenomix, Mark serves as Board Chair at XCR Diagnostics, a company developing a novel handheld PCR system.

Give us Phenomix’s elevator pitch. 

Phenomix is bringing personalized medicine to the field of obesity. We are capitalizing on many years of work at Mayo Clinic demonstrating that obesity is not one disease but many. In fact 85% of obese patients have one of four subtypes, or phenotypes, of obesity. Knowing a patient’s phenotype allows a physician to prescribe the right medicine the first time. And as a result, patients lose up to twice the weight they would have otherwise. We can identify these four phenotypes in a simple blood test which will be available from our lab before year end. 

What led you to found Phenomix?

Phenomix was founded by Mayo Clinic obesity specialist Dr. Andres Acosta. My role was to lead a process at the AMA’s innovation subsidiary, Health2047, to engage with Phenomix and eventually lead a financing. Health2047 engaged with Phenomix because of the huge unmet need in treating obesity and the recognition that Dr. Acosta’s discoveries could play a major role in getting the disease under control. 

As a leader, how has your role changed during COVID-19? 

COVID has reinforced the importance of key leadership values: building trust, overcommunicating, and team-building. Old style top-down management just doesn’t work in this environment (if it ever did of course). 

How have you pivoted your company to address the needs that have risen since the onset of COVID-19? 

Penomix addresses a major risk factor for COVID: Obesity. During the pandemic, Phenomix worked with Health2047 to become one of its official spinout companies and emerged as a stronger company. We believe this will be a big factor in our future success, and for addressing the obesity epidemic. 

What are the big milestones to come in the next few years for Phenomix? 

Our biggest milestone is the launch of our obesity phenotyping test by year end 2021. Our initial market will be obesity specialists and their patients. Beyond that, the big milestones will center around market adoption, building the team and fundraising. We are targeting a Series A funding in 2022 which will fund our launch into broader markets (i.e. beyond the specialty markets) in 2023. 

How do you balance leading a startup with your everyday life? 

In a startup there is always more work to do than time in a day. But you have to make time to periodically separate yourself from work. You need to clear you head and allow for the creative thoughts to flow. That’s when big things can happen. 

What’s one thing people get wrong about startup life? 

They think it’s glamorous. Like Edison’s quote on genius, startups are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. If you’re not ready to roll up your sleeves and get work done, much of it tedious, then startups are not for you. 

What is the best advice you have received in your career? 

To listen to your customer. When I became a CEO for the first time I was in a new industry and sought advice from someone who had run large companies in the same field. I expect detailed advice on how the industry worked. But he simply said “talk to your customer and build the product that meets their needs.” This was simple advice which led to a successful product and a great exit for the company. 

What is the worst? 

To overlook character when hiring for key roles. I was once persuaded to hire someone for their brilliant reputation despite misgivings about their character (they were quite arrogant during the interview process). It was a big mistake. You can only build a great company around great people, all of whom are committed as much to each other’s success as they are to their own. 

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year? 

To get vaccinated and see family again! 

How do you relax / decompress? 

Hiking, swimming, reading (mostly biographies). And after the pandemic, traveling as much as possible. 

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community? 

I’m new to the Medical Alley community and looking forward to participating! 

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