Cognoa Appoints Industry Leader David Happel as New Chief Executive Officer

Happel takes up the top job at Cognoa after over 25 years of successfully commercializing medical products and as a leader in the biotech and biopharma industries. 

(Palo Alto, Calif. – March 24, 2020) Cognoa, the leading digital therapeutics company focused on pediatric behavioral health, announced today the appointment of David Happel as Chief Executive Officer. Cognoa’s former CEO and Co-Founder, Brent Vaughan, will be staying on in an advisory capacity to support Happel and the Cognoa team through the transition and moving into a new role with Morningside Group, a healthcare venture capital firm and Cognoa’s lead investor.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved at Cognoa to advance the standard of care in pediatric behavioral health” said Vaughan of his time leading Cognoa. “We have pioneered the first diagnostic and the first digital therapeutic for autism, with both receiving FDA Breakthrough Designation, and have firmly established ourselves as leaders in pediatric behavioral health and digital therapeutics. I am thrilled that David will be picking up the baton. With his background in both the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, combined with his experience in commercialization, he is the ideal person to successfully take Cognoa to market. I am also excited to join Morningside who has been such a supportive investor for us at Cognoa.”

Expressing his excitement on the new role, Happel said, “I am thrilled to join the Cognoa team at such a pivotal time and to contribute to such a remarkable company. As it stands, there are no FDA-cleared pharmacological interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the digital solutions developed by Cognoa will offer the best way to effectively diagnose and treat autism.” Paying tribute to the foundation Vaughan has built, Happel remarked, “Thanks to Brent’s dedication and hard work, Cognoa stands at the forefront of the digital diagnostic and therapeutic industry and is exceptionally well positioned to make a profound impact on how parents and pediatricians support and treat children living with autism and pediatric behavioral health conditions.”  

Happel joins Cognoa from Chrono Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company, where he served as President, CEO, and Director. He also previously served in senior management roles at Horizon Therapeutics, Raptor Pharma, Allergen Research Corporation, Dynavax Technologies, and Chiron Corporation. He brings extensive experience in the start-up biotech space and has a proven track record of developing and executing corporate business strategies, raising private and public capital, and negotiating M&A transactions. Happel’s expertise lies in commercialization, having successfully launched and commercialized numerous products across the medical space, experience he intends to draw upon at Cognoa. He also specializes in rare disease early-stage development and operations. As part of his role, he will champion greater reimbursement for digital therapeutics and changing the healthcare landscape to enhance access to digital treatments that improve clinical outcomes.

Happel joins Cognoa at an exciting time for the company which has recently appointed renowned pediatrician and 2018 Past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Dr. Colleen Kraft, as Senior Medical Director of Clinical Adoption. The company has also received FDA Breakthrough device designation for its groundbreaking autism diagnostic and for its digital therapeutic for children with autism, and the company plans on filing its premarket submission for its diagnostic to the FDA later this year. Happel received his B.A. in chemistry from Indiana University and his M.B.A in marketing from Indiana State University.

About Cognoa

Cognoa is the leading digital therapeutics company developing FDA regulated products to be routinely prescribed by pediatricians and paid by insurers, to diagnose and treat behavioral health conditions, starting with autism. Cognoa is focused on changing the current standard of care to ensure children receive early intervention for behavioral health conditions for improved lifelong outcomes. Cognoa is currently working with the FDA as part of a clinical trial and expects to achieve FDA clearance by 2021. For more information, visit

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