Industry vet Ken Moch jumps to the helm of a small biotech with big dreams for treating Alzheimer’s

Longtime biotech vet Ken Moch will be spending a good part of his working hours in Pittsburgh from now on. The former Chimerix CEO has landed the helm of Cognition Therapeutics, a small biotech which is pursuing early-stage work on a new Alzheimer’s drug.

“I’ve known the company for awhile,” Moch tells me about his move, two years after he left Chimerix in the wake of a viral controversy over access to that company’s lead anti-viral. Cognition (AKA CogRx), he says, “has very exciting technology.”

Moch has 25+ years experience in biotech, so he knows going in to the new job that Alzheimer’s is one of the most complex arenas in drug R&D. The past 10 years has seen the disastrous string of experimental Alzheimer’s drug failures grow into a veritable Boot Heel of dead programs, ruthlessly claiming the companies and teams that have tried to beat it — so far.

For anyone who’s met him, though, Moch is an unquenchable optimist, and he’ll bring all his trademark enthusiasm to bear in pushing Cognition along, expanding the team, raising new funds, searching out fresh partners to work with.

“The founding scientist is Susan Catalano,” Moch says, an expert in synaptic plasticity. “What I found most delightful is how she dedicated 8 years of her life pushing from the concept into the clinic.” It took a lot of passion to push along a small molecule like this, raising $27 million from angel investors and $11 million from foundations and NIH grants to get the company where it is today.

And now Moch will champion the work she’s doing targeting the sigma-2/PGRMC1 receptor, “which behaves as a saturable binding site for soluble Abeta (amyloid beta) and mediates its synaptotoxicity.”

The risk of failure in Alzheimer’s may be astronomically high, but the potential rewards for success are huge. For now, Moch — who’s recently had to contend with a nasty libel suit filed by Chimerix investor Pappas Investors  — will focus on the rewards as the biotech’s lead program completes Phase I in Australia.

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