Marlborough, Mass.-based RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp. (NASDAQ: RXII), a clinical-stage RNAi company developing therapeutics in dermatology and ophthalmology, said it is exploring strategic options including a range of potential M&A and business development opportunities.

As part of this effort, RXi has engaged New York-based Griffin Securities, Inc. as its financial advisor.

RXII’s stock price jumped 42% to $2.26 per share after the announcement, bringing its market value to $14.77 million and its enterprise value to $91.87 million.

“We have engaged Griffin Securities and are in active discussions regarding a potential merger transaction that, if successful, would be expected to bring substantial synergies to the combined business and significantly advance our clinical pipeline,” said RXi president and CEO, Dr. Geert Cauwenbergh.

RXi Pharmaceuticals develops therapies based on siRNA technology and immunotherapy agents. Its clinical development programs include RXI-109, a self-delivering RNAi compound, which is in Phase IIa clinical trial that is used to prevent or reduce dermal scarring following surgery or trauma, as well as for the management of hypertrophic scars and keloids; and a Phase I/II clinical trial in retinal scarring.

The company is also developing RXI-109 for the treatment of an ophthalmic indication, focusing on retinal and corneal scarring; and Samcyprone, an formulation of diphenylcyclopropenone, which is in Phase II clinical trial for the treatment of various disorders, such as warts, alopecia areata, non-malignant skin tumors, and cutaneous metastases of melanoma. In addition, the company is developing dermal scarring and wart programs with its sd-rxRNA technology. The company was incorporated in 2011 and is headquartered in Marlborough, Mass.

RXi in its first incarnation was founded in late 2006 by the Los Angeles-based drug development company CytRx and four scientific founders including Craig Mello, PhD, who had recently received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his co-discovery of RNAi. RXi was spun off as a separate company and taken public in 2008. In 2011 RXi acquired Apthera, a developer of a peptide vaccine called NeuVax, and changed its name to Galena Biopharma to reflect its change of focus.

In 2012 Galena Biopharma spun off the siRNA technology into a separate company renamed once again RXi Pharmaceuticals, which started trading publicly on the OTC market. RXi’s stock listing was upgraded to OTCQX in June 2013, and to NASDAQ in February 2014.

RXi’s chairman is Robert Bitterman, previously an executive at Aventis. Dr. Craig Mello remains involved with RXi as chairman of its Scientific Advisory Board.

The largest shareholder of RXi on record is Advanced RNA Technologies LLC, an entity controlled by Alexey Wolfson, PhD, holding 1.22 million shares representing an 18.7% stake in RXi, as of June 31, 2014. Dr. Wolfson is also the co-founder and CEO of Advirna since 2007. Advirna’s co-founder, Prof. Anastasia Khvorova, PhD, served as RXi’s Chief Scientific Officer from 2008 to 2012. Advirna is a private biotechnology company developing innovative solutions for efficient delivery of polynucleotides in vivo. Advirna’s self-deliverable RNAi is based on the recent breakthrough in biology known as RNA interference (RNAi). Advirna is housed at LabCentral in Cambridge, Mass.



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