June 2, 2010 / 12:02 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-AVI BioPharma muscle drug data positive; shares up

* Says all patients show missing protein in highest 2 doses

* Says drug safe and tolerable

* Shares up as much as 14 pct (Adds details, analyst comment; updates share movement)

June 2 (Reuters) - Biotechnology company AVI BioPharma Inc AVII.O said its experimental drug to treat a genetic muscle-wasting disease showed positive results in a clinical study, sending its shares up as much as 14 percent.

Top-line biopsy data showed the generation of muscle fibres with the protein dystrophin of more than 50 percent of normal in a patient suffering from Duchenne muscle dystrophy (DMD), after being given the drug, AVI-4658.

Lack of the protein causes the condition, which weakens the muscle and eventually leads to paralysis.

Maxim Group analyst Yale Jen said the current data needed to be validated.

“Overall, going forward they need to show greater consistency particularly in the higher dose,” Jen said, noting that the 20 milligram cohort had four patients in it.

Nineteen patients were enrolled in total and assigned to one of six dose cohorts, ranging from 0.5 mg to 20 mg. The primary objective of the trial was to assess the safety of AVI-4658 at these doses over the 26-week duration of the trial.

“All 8 patients in the 10 and 20 mg/kg cohorts treated with AVI-4658 demonstrated generation of new dystrophin-positive muscle fibers,” the company said in a statement.

Generation of functional dystrophin is considered critical for successful treatment of DMD, AVI said.

The company, which is currently in discussions with potential partners for AVI-4658, said the U.S. health regulator was currently reviewing data from animal studies of the drug.

Shares of the Bothell, Washington-based company, were up 9 percent at $1.52 Wednesday on Nasdaq. They had touched a high of $1.59 earlier in the day. (Reporting by Vidya L Nathan in Bangalore; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan)

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