Cognito finds new medical, technology heads in BrainStorm, Philips alums

With a pivotal trial of its neuromodulation treatment for Alzheimer’s disease underway—and backed by a fresh influx of more than $70 million in VC funding—Cognito Therapeutics is now in the process of strengthening its C-suite.

The company has recruited news heads of its medical and technology operations, it announced Monday. While Ralph Kern, M.D., is taking on the chief medical officer role as his first at Cognito, the startup’s new chief technology officer, Kim Kwan, represents an internal promotion.

Both of the appointees were chosen to help advance Cognito’s ongoing “Hope” trial of its light-and-sound neuromodulation technology for Alzheimer’s, CEO Brent Vaughan said in the announcement.

The 2021 Fierce 15 honoree’s neuromodulation system features a headset that delivers personalized regimens of flashing, gamma-frequency light and sounds, with an aim of stimulating a mechanism of the brain responsible for removing dangerous proteins, activating immune cells and strengthening connections across the brain.

Kern’s career stretches more than three decades, though the first was spent solely in the medical field: He previously led the University of Toronto’s academic neurology program and the neurophysiology department at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

Kern ventured into the world of biopharma in 2006, when he joined Genzyme—pre-Sanofi buyout—as head of medical affairs. He stayed at the biotech for about four years before beginning another four-year stint at Novartis, where he held VP roles leading the Big Pharma’s multiple sclerosis and neuroscience medical units.

From there, Kern moved on to Biogen—a two-year period that culminated in a role as a senior vice president and head of the company’s global medical operations—before settling in 2017 at BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, first as chief operating officer and then, until February of this year, as president and CMO.

Kwan, meanwhile, has been at Cognito since 2018, when he came aboard as vice president of engineering, tasked with heading up the development and manufacturing of Cognito’s neuromodulation platform.

Before joining the startup, he spent seven years at medtech giant Philips, holding leadership roles in software development, program management and R&D. Prior to that, Kwan logged about a decade at Thoratec—which was acquired first by St. Jude Medical in 2015 and then, under the St. Jude umbrella, by Abbott in 2017—and another eight years as an R&D manager at Thermo Cardiosystems, which was ultimately acquired by Thoratec in 2001 and was the original maker of the HeartMate “artificial heart” pump now sold by Abbott.