US-based biopharmaceutical services company Quintiles is raising its stake in Prana Biotechnology, an Australian company focused on Alzheimer’s disease and other major age-related neurodegenerative disorders, by acquiring US$1 million worth of new ordinary Prana shares at an issue price of Aus$0.225.

The new funding will be used to support Prana’s recently announced strategy to accelerate clinical development of its lead compound PBT2, which is in Phase II trials for Alzheimer’s disease.

In April the company said it was widening the target indications for PBT2 to include Huntington’s disease, which “should enable Prana to target market approval for PBT2 several years sooner than previously planned and at considerably less cost”.

A six-month Phase II placebo-controlled trial of the compound in 100 mild Huntington’s Disease patients is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2011. In the third quarter, Prana plans to initiate a 12-month Phase II brain imaging study of PBT2 in 40 mild Alzheimer’s Disease patients.

June 2010 investment

Prana announced in June 2010 that Quintiles, which had been a research partner of the Melbourne-based company for a number of years, had 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.

In the latest placement, Quintiles will also receive an option to purchase a fully paid share at an exercise price of AU$0.225 for every four ordinary shares received.

Closer to the centre

Contract research organisations have been moving closer to the centre of drug development through risk-sharing agreements with pharmaceutical partners.

Last month, Quintiles announced an investment “in the US$ seven-figure range” in   Swiss biotech Kareus Therapeutics, as part of a broad strategic alliance to move two of Kareus’ preclinical programmes through clinical trials.