Cognesy Therapeutics Announces Senior Leadership Team to Advance Neuroplasticity Drug Discovery Platform for Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Thomas C. Wessel, MD, PhD, CEO, Cognesy Therapeutics (Photo: Business Wire)

LEXINGTON, Mass.--()--Cognesy Therapeutics, a recently established company developing a platform for the discovery of neuroplasticity-inducing drugs to treat a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders, announced appointments of its senior leadership team, the company said today.

The company seeks to address the worldwide medical need for novel therapeutics to treat central nervous system diseases, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and dementia, as well as acquired brain disorders, such as stroke and traumatic brain injury. Collectively, these conditions affect one in eight people worldwide, and many of these patients are not adequately treated with current drugs. Cognesy’s initial investor is Gordian Ventures, an incubation fund investing in and building global life science companies.

A growing body of evidence points to neuroplasticity as a shared neurobiological response underlying the clinical efficacy of different compounds, including ketamine and esketamine as well as various psychedelic agents such as psilocybin, for treating depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions. Although these compounds have significant activity and act rapidly, their consciousness-altering, hallucinatory and other side effects present significant challenges to broader clinical use.

“Our neuroplasticity-first approach has immense potential to rapidly generate compounds with promise across a broad range of psychiatric and cognitive disorders, stroke and traumatic brain disorders, substance abuse conditions and pain,” commented Tom Wessel, CEO at Cognesy Therapeutics. “Cognesy has established an outstanding team with deep experience in CNS drug discovery and development.”

CSO Pete Distefano added: “Our team is building a cutting-edge neuroplasticity drug discovery platform that integrates advanced medicinal chemistry, proprietary screens for neuroplasticity, and in vivo models to assess efficacy and safety of novel compounds. We believe this approach will lead to new insights and important new agents to trigger neuroplasticity in different clinical settings.”

The senior leadership team at Cognesy Therapeutics includes:

Thomas C. Wessel, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, is a board-certified neurologist with more than 25 years of drug development experience, including as medical lead for three CNS products approved in the United States: Razadyne® (galantamine), Lunesta® (eszopiclone) and Ampyra® (dalfampridine). Previously, Dr. Wessel served in research leadership roles at Relmada Therapeutics, Asceneuron, Flex Pharma, Acorda Therapeutics, Sepracor and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Peter S. DiStefano, PhD, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, who has more than 35 years’ drug discovery and development experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Dr. DiStefano joined Cognesy from Zebra Biologics, where he was Chief Scientific Officer. Prior to that he served as Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Second Genome, as Chief Scientific Officer, and Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Elixir Pharmaceuticals, Earlier in his career, Dr. DiStefano served in research leadership and research positions in neurology and neurobiology at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron and Abbott Laboratories.

Danny Talati, PharmD, MBA, Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy, has spent more than 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of roles, including sales, medical and business development. Prior to joining Cognesy, Dr. Talati was Head of Business Development at atai Life Sciences. Previously, he held roles at a number of companies, including ten years at Eli Lilly, primarily in the Neuroscience Medical division.

Neuroplasticity is the process by which the brain changes through nerve cell growth, reorganization and communication to alter its function. The process is fundamental to growth, from infancy to adulthood, to learning and memory, and to recovery from brain injury. Neuroplasticity involves changes at the molecular level (e.g., expression of brain growth factors), cellular level (e.g., increases in synapses between neurons), and system levels (e.g., increased synaptic connectivity among brain regions).

Cognesy’s platform is focused on the discovery of first-in-class neuroplasticity-inducing drugs with potential to treat multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. The company’s goal is to design compounds with improved therapeutic profiles – enhanced activity without side effect liabilities of existing drugs. The company’s platform integrates advanced medicinal chemistry with screens for neuroplastic activity, including neurite outgrowth and synaptogenesis, as well as assays to determine a compound’s mechanism of action and the pathway in which it acts. These assays are coupled with in vivo disease models as well as predictive models for human hallucinogenic potential.

About Gordian Ventures

Gordian is a global life science venture fund focused on the incubation of companies with high technical barriers to entry. Gordian’s team is comprised of successful entrepreneurs who focus on being a co-founder to each of the ventures it incubates. Gordian has offices in Lexington, Massachusetts and Shanghai, China. Learn more at

About Cognesy Therapeutics

Cognesy Therapeutics is building a best-in-class platform technology to discovery of novel drugs that induce neuroplasticity for the treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases. Learn more at:


Danny Talati, PharmD, MBA
Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy


Danny Talati, PharmD, MBA
Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy