In further evidence of contract research organisations widening their remit and getting closer to the core of drug development, US-based biopharmaceutical services provider Quintiles is investing up to US$2 million in Australia’s Prana Biotechnology.

As Prana notes, Quintiles has been “intimately involved” for a number of years with the Melbourne-based company, set up in 1997 to commercialise research into Alzheimer’s disease and other major age-related neurodegenerative disorders, Quintiles was the research partner for Prana’s last successful clinical trial.

By subscribing to newly issued Prana shares, Quintiles will help to support a planned definitive Phase II study with PBT2, the biotechnology company’s lead compound for Alzheimer’s disease. Prana has also signed a mandate with Southern Cross Equities for the private placement of up to 225 million new shares to raise funds for this trial.

Quintiles has agreed to acquire 7,064,749 new ordinary shares in Prana at an issue price of Aus$0.1624 or 16.24 cents per share, raising Aus$1.15 million. It will also subscribe for up to US$1 million (Aus$1.15 million) worth of additional new Prana shares in the private placement managed by Southern Cross Equities.

Prana said it was “delighted to have secured an organisation of the calibre and influence of Quintiles as a significant shareholder and supporter of Prada’s therapeutic goals”.

The planned Phase II trial of PBT2 will involve 525 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The study will have a treatment period of 12 months, with cognition the key performance measure.