RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp., a discovery-stage biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the development and commercialization of proprietary therapeutics on RNA interference, has announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement to acquire Apthera, Inc., a private biotechnology company that develops a pipeline of peptide-based immunotherapies for the adjuvant treatment of HER2-positive breast and other cancers. The acquisition will provide RXi with a late stage product candidate, NeuVax™, which is a peptide-based immunotherapy for low-to-intermediate HER2+ breast cancer, not eligible for Herceptin®, which has been expected to enter Phase III clinical trials by the first half of 2012. The company’s very first RNAi product, RXI-109 created for anti-scarring, remains on the path for an investigational new drug (IND) application filing for this year.

Per terms of the agreement, Apthera shareholders will receive approximately 4.8 million shares of RXi’s common stock. Apthera’s shareholders will also be authorized to possible payments based on the achievement of specific development and commercial achievements relating to Apthera’s NeuVax™ candidate.

With relation to the acquisition, Mark J. Ahn, PhD, who is currently a member of RXi’s Board of Directors, will be succeeding Noah D. Beerman as the President and Chief Executive Officer of RXi and will be leading the combined company, which will be operating from RXi’s current headquarters.

“Mark Ahn brings significant experience and leadership in developing and commercializing major oncology and immunology therapeutics,” said Sanford Hillsberg, RXi’s Chairman of the Board. “We want to thank Noah Beerman for his excellent service as RXi’s President and Chief Executive Officer during our transition from a research to a product oriented company. We are delighted that Noah will be assisting us in the coming months as a consultant to the Company and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Dr. Ahn, 48, holds over 20+ years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry. He recently served as Principal at Pukana Partners, Ltd., a provider of strategic consulting to life sciences companies; and inacademic positions at Willamette University and Chair, Science & Technology Management, Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Victoria University at Wellington, New Zealand. Dr. Ahn is also the founder, President, and CEO of Hana Biosciences. Preceding Hana, he served as Vice President, Hematology and corporate officer at Genentech, Inc. Dr. Ahn also held senior positions at Amgen and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Dr. Ahn has served on various public and venture capital-backed boards of directors.

“The RXi-Apthera merger represents an exciting turning point in which we are advancing from being a technology platform company to a late stage product development company aimed at blockbuster therapeutic markets. Acquiring Apthera’s cancer vaccine product candidates builds upon the promising RNAi based pre-clinical work related to cancer vaccines that we have recently been doing at RXi,” stated Mark Ahn, President & CEO.

“With this successful transition we have streamlined our operations, integrated the RXi and Apthera management teams, and reduced our early stage RNAi research and development activities that will free up financial and other resources as part of focusing our sights on bringing our first RNAi product to commence human clinical trials in anti-scarring in early 2012. We are also initiating NeuVax into a Phase III clinical trial in breast cancer, which is targeted for the first half of 2012.” “I believe the combination of Apthera’s late stage breast cancer candidate and RXi’s experience will accelerate the progress of NeuVax into the clinic” stated Dr. Mark W. Schwartz, President and CEO of Apthera, who will become the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of RXi following the merger. “The combined companies will accelerate the development of the compound for the benefit of patients and physicians in treating this significant disease”.

RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp., a discovery-stage biopharmaceutical company, focuses on the development and commercial of proprietary therapeutics based on RNA interference for the treatment of human diseases in the U.S. and abroad. The company intends to identify lead compounds and advance towards pre-clinical and clinical development programs in various therapeutic areas, including its core focus of developing treatments for anti-scarring and retinal disorders, as well as interests in oncology and indications accessible by spinal cord delivery. The company, which was formerly known as Argonaut Pharmaceuticals, Inc., changed its name to RXi Pharmaceuticals Corporation in 2006 before beginning its operations in 2007. RXi Pharmaceuticals which was founded in 2003, is headquartered in Worcester, Massachusetts.

For more information on the company and its future endeavors, visit their company website http://www.rxipharma.com

Let us hear your thoughts below: