Kenneth Moch, the former CEO of Durham-based Chimerix in 2014, has been hired as chief executive of a 10-employee life sciences startup in Pittsburgh.
Moch, 62, said Thursday he started in his new role Oct. 10 at Cognition Therapeutics. His hiring comes 2 1/2 years after his resignation from Chimerix, which at the time was generating media attention and investor interest for its breakthroughs in antiviral drugs.
Moch abruptly left Chimerix after the drug maker was targeted by an intense social media campaign to pressure the company to release an experimental antiviral to a severely ill 7-year-old boy in Virginia. The boy, Josh Hardy, was experiencing kidney failure as a consequence of taking potent antivirals. Chimerix initially refused to release its drug, brincidofovir, because it violated ethical protocols for drugs in clinical trials. The company quickly reversed that decision amid mounting pressure and provided the medication as part of a pilot program arranged with the Food and Drug Administration.
Hardy, a multiple cancer survivor, recovered from his life-threatening viral infection, and was able to go home. However, his health regressed and he died in September.
After his departure from Chimerix, where Moch had worked five years, Moch became a consultant in the life sciences industry, and made speaking appearances about the ethical complications of supplying experimental drugs to severely ill patients.
Last year, Moch was sued for libel by Durham venture capital firm A.M. Pappas & Associates and accused of trying to smear the Pappas firm through anonymous emails sent to investors. The founder of the firm, Art Pappas, was a member of Chimerix’s board of directors when Moch resigned from the company.
The Pappas suit against Moch is still pending. Moch had also filed a countersuit against Pappas, accusing the firm of extortion for demanding Moch pay $10 million and make other concessions, but that suit was dismissed by the Orange County Superior Court earlier this year.
Cognition is a privately-held company founded in 2007. It is developing a drug to restore memory in Alzheimer’s patients. Moch said his role will include raising venture capital and shepherding the company through clinical testing of the drug. “It faces all of the issues that any biotech and life-sciences firm faces,” he said.
Moch, a graduate of Princeton University and Stanford University, said he will continue living in Chapel Hill and will commute from North Carolina to Pennsylvania for his new job.