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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But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

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Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

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The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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David Grainger [file photo]

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The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.