When Dr. Susan Catalano founded Cognition Therapeutics, Inc., five years ago, she had a tremendous team and a worthy goal — treating the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

But she also had a potential business problem. The business was based in California’s Bay Area, where high costs threatened to make it difficult to compete with overseas drug discovery companies. If Cognition Therapeutics was going to grow, it was going to have to find a new home.

Cognition Therapeutics is making major strides in Alzheimer's research.And it did – on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“We were aware of Pittsburgh’s longstanding concentration of neurobiology expertise, so we knew it was possible to build a neurobiology company in the city,” Catalano said. “As we looked into economic development agencies, we were put in touch with Innovation Works and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

“They really rolled out the red carpet for us, and Innovation Works, the Southwestern PA Ben Franklin Technology Partner, was key to that. The folks there were really wonderful in supporting us and welcoming us.”

That was 2007 and ’08. Since then, the welcome – and IW’s total of $450,000 in investments – has paid off impressively.

Cognition has made significant progress in discovery and development of small molecule therapeutics targeting the toxic proteins that cause the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases of the human brain. Catalano estimates the company is 12-18 months from taking its disease-modifying therapeutics to clinic – one of the final steps in the drug discovery process.

Cognition’s proprietary chemistry platform, Novel Improved Chemical Extracts, and its proprietary compound screening platform, the Early Alzheimer’s Screening System, combine to provide a greater ability to predict which compounds are going to be effective in human Alzheimer’s.

Ultimately, it could all add up to one thing: Effective treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, developed right here in Pennsylvania.

“We think these really have the possibility to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s in the near term,” Catalano said. “We are well-regarded by our peers, and we’re really every excited about moving forward.”