Yesterday, Apthera Inc. announced that it has entered into a merger agreement with RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp., who will acquire Apthera. The merger will help initiate the Phase III trial for the new breast cancer drug NeuVax. NeuVax is a peptide-based immunotherapy for low-to-intermediate HER2+ breast cancer patients who can’t take Herceptin. It is expected to enter Phase III clinical trials in 2012, under an FDA approved Special Protocol Assessment.

Apthera, Inc. is a biotech company that is developing and commercializing a series of immunotherapies for the treatment of HER2-positive cancers. Apthera’s products are currently in clinical trials, which are attempting to reduce recurrence rates for breast and prostate cancers. Rxi Pharmaceuticals is focused on RNAi based therapy and developing treatments for anti-scarring and retinal disorders.

Under the agreement, Apthera’s shareholders will receive 4.8 million shares of RXi’s common stock, and will receive contingent payments based on milestones passed in terms of NeuVax’s development and commercial achievements. Furthermore, Apthera CEO Mark Schwartz will join RXi as Executive Vice President and CEO, and Mark Ahn, a director at RXi, will become the new President and CEO.

“This merger will provide significant experience and support for moving our late stage HER2 direct breast cancer drug, NeuVax™ into phase III in the first half of 2012,” commented Schwartz. “This is a key milestone for the company, and we look forward to accelerating our work on this exciting late stage development program.”

“I believe RXi is a merger partner with the skills, resources and enthusiasm necessary to bring our late stage product NeuVax™ forward,” commented Ira Leiderman, Chairman of Apthera. “This transaction is a key milestone in this exciting program targeting a major unmet medical need.”