Prana Biotechnology (PRAN) had one goal Tuesday: Mine deep into the phase II study of its Huntington's disease drug PBT2 to find anything positive to report. A single, positive data point -- even in a study overwhelmingly negative -- would be enough to claim victory and justify moving PBT2 into a phase III study.
Mission accomplished, as Prana heralded PBT2's benefit on a single measure of cognition in Huntington's disease. Never mind that Prana analyzed PBT2 using eight different cognitive tests and found only one that worked. [Well, sort of worked, if you count just one of two PBT2 doses barely achieving statistical significance.]
Prana simply took a page from the Elan-bapineuzumab playbook on how to develop placebo-like drugs in neuro-degenerative diseases. Tuesday's Hail Mary press release takes me back to 2009 when Elan tried to fool investors into believing that bapineuzumab was a real Alzheimer's drug.
The Elan story ended badly and Prana's will likely end no better, but not before the company raises more money and probably repeats the entire exercise in the coming months since PBT2 is also being studied in Alzheimer's. I can't want to see the spin from those study results.
Prana shares were up 42% to $10.33 Tuesday afternoon in a frenzy of biotech momentum trading.
The most amusing twist today in the Prana story, however, was the cheerleading coming from the Twitter account of Dr. Rudy Tanzi, the scientist who invented the "metals hypothesis" upon which PBT2 is based. Tanzi is a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School but he's also Prana's chief scientific officer.