RNAi pioneer RXi lands Ph3 cancer vax in Apthera buyout

With its lead therapy not yet in the clinic, RNAi pioneer RXi has engineered the takeover of Apthera for a chunk of stock and replaced its CEO with one of its board members. And the merger--which buoyed its shares by about 10 percent this morning--immediately puts the expanded company on the threshold of a long-delayed Phase III study for an experimental immunotherapy for breast cancer.

RXi ($RXII) managed to complete the deal with 4.8 million shares and the promise of undefined development and commercial milestones. Mark J. Ahn, meanwhile, will succeed Noah D. Beerman at the helm of the expanded company.

"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" said Dr. Mark W. Schwartz, the CEO of Apthera, who will become the COO 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 gets a cancer program that appears to have stalled after a mid-stage study. Apthera was reportedly preparing to take NeuVax into Phase III three years ago, after reporting a lower mortality rate for women with breast cancer characterized by low or intermediate expression of HER2/neu. And back in the summer of 2009 Apthera worked out its special protocol assessment for the Phase III as well.

- here's the RXi release