Prana Biotechnology Ltd. (ASX:PBT) jumped 19.4% on Tuesday to close at $0.185. The Melbourne based micro-cap biotechnology company primarily focuses on cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.

The share price rise was on the back of Prana receiving approval from the Austin Health Research Ethics Committee to commence a 12 month Phase II Imaging trial testing PBT2, the company’s drug for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

This trial continues Prana’s incredibly slow progress in the multi-billion race to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Investors must be hoping that this tortoise will win the race. More importantly, AD sufferers and their families will be happy to see some progress for Prana’s promising drug.

Investors were relieved that the trial will receive funding from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), as Prana continues to be short of cash.

Howard Fillit, MD, the ADDF’s Executive Director commented that

PBT2 stands out as one of the few remaining orally available agents with clinical trial evidence of cognitive benefit for Alzheimer’s patients. Success in this trial will demonstrate target engagement by PBT2 in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s Disease, and accelerate the clinical development of PBT2 to patients.

Alzheimer’s Disease and PBT2
AD and dementia affects over 26 million people worldwide and those numbers are set to rise as baby boomers age. The cost to society has been reported as $600 billion per annum. Currently all available treatments are approved to provide some degree of symptomatic relief. None change the course of the disease and the eventual decline in patient’s cognition and health.

Over the past few years several high profile Phase III trials have failed to reach their primary endpoints. PBT2 has the potential to be an effective treatment for AD that is supported by an extensive body of scientific and clinical work.

Prana’s earlier clinical data  was for  a 12 week trial in 78 patients, the  new  PBT2 Imaging Trial  provides the opportunity to treat patients for 12 months, providing significantly more safety data as well as efficacy data. The study design aims to demonstrate PBT2’s potential as an effective disease modifying treatment available to patients.

Quick Prana Recap
Prana Biotechnology was established to commercialise research into Alzheimer’s Disease and other major age-related neurodegenerative disorders. The Company was incorporated in 1997 and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in March 2000, PBT.AX, and listed on NASDAQ in September 2002, PRAN.

Researchers at prominent international institutions including The University of Melbourne, The Mental Health Research Institute (Melbourne) and Massachusetts General Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, contributed to the discovery of Prana’s technology.

Prana’s key asset is PBT2 which successfully completed PIIa trials in February 2008 – yes almost four years ago. Investors were expecting a partnering deal to be announced soon after and rumours about a deal surfaced on message board towards the end of 2008. However, no deal eventuated and investors have suffered heavy dilution and languishing share price.

For those who don’t know Prana is Sanskrit for “breath” and in Vedantic philosophy, it is the notion of a vital, life-sustaining force of living beings. We hope that PBT2 does eventually sustain a better life for sufferers of AD.

The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. Readers can click here for a free Motley Fool report titled Read This Before The Next Market Crash.

Motley Fool Investment Analyst Dean Morel has an interest in Prana. 

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