By The Life Science Report
Source: The Life Sciences Report 11/14/2016
By securing an exclusive option to acquire MirImmune Inc., RXi Pharmaceuticals has expanded its reach into the “high-value” field of immuno-oncology, a move that has energized the company and prompted a pair of analysts to express optimism about RXi’s future.
“Given the interest in cellular immunotherapies and the proven ability of checkpoint inhibitors to enhance T cell activity, RXi’s relatively small investments may well pay off handsomely, particularly if the sd-rxRNA pretreatment obviates the need for expensive checkpoint inhibitors,” Markey wrote.
RXi’s self-delivering RNAi (sd-rxRNAi) compounds have the ability to “‘silence’ or down-regulate the expression of a specific gene that may be overexpressed in a disease condition,” according to the company. Thus far, the partnership with MirImmune has shown in cell cultures that the technology can enhance inhibition of checkpoints such as PD-1, and has the potential to improve the efficacy of innovative immunotherapies such as CAR T-cells.
According to RXi’s Chief Development Officer Pamela Pavco, the sd-rxRNAi technology has been shown to efficiently penetrate the cell wall in both cell culture and a mouse model of human cancer, and is nontoxic to the cell. It’s also demonstrated the ability to produce an “80% reduction” in checkpoint inhibitor expression, Pavco said.
“We can block intracellular targets, which antibodies can’t do, and we can also target extracellular targets, reducing their expression, so there aren’t as many of those on the surface of the cell.” Pavco explained. “By targeting more than one of these checkpoint inhibitors, we can have a more efficacious therapy.”
Though still in preclinical development in the immuno-oncology realm, Pavco said RXi’s sd-rxRNAi technology has potential applications in treatment of “recalcitrant,” or difficult-to-treat cancers用ancreatic and ovarian, for example.
“It’s a very good application of our technology in an area that’s underserved,” Pavco explained. “Being able to target a recalcitrant cancer would be a huge thing for patients who are underserved. . .it could be really transformational in that kind of therapy, and make a difference in the lives of patients.”
In addition, Pavco said, moving into immuno-oncology “brings value to our company because we’re going into a new area. We’re really excited to be able to do this.”
Maxim Jacobs of Edison Investments, in an Oct. 25 research report, noted that with the agreement, RXi has embarked on “a relatively inexpensive route into a high-value area.” The analyst also noted Edison had bumped up its valuation to $17.57 per share from $17.06.
The platforms of the two companies have demonstrated synergies, according to Jacobs. “Since licensing RXi’s technology, MirImmune has selected six lead compounds against different extracellular and intracellular immune checkpoints,” the analyst wrote. In these preclinical studies, MirImmune has “demonstrated the silencing of all six targets. . .both singly and in combination.”
The analyst went on to note that the ability “to simultaneously silence multiple checkpoint genes and to target intracellular targets which antibodies cannot reach could be a competitive advantage.”
The option agreement with privately held MirImmune follows a 2015 licensing agreement between the two companies that coupled RXi’s proprietary sd-rxRNA technology and MirImmune’s cell-based cancer immunotherapies, according to RXi’s press release.
The agreement entitles RXi to “acquire all outstanding capital stock of MirImmune Inc. . .in consideration for a number of shares equal to 19.99% of the then outstanding shares of common stock of RXi, plus additional potential consideration contingent on MirImmune reaching certain milestones,” the release stated. The option expires April 5, 2017.
With the company’s cash burn rate expected to increase as clinical development of the “oncology-related compounds” gets underway, both Markey and Jacobs noted the company will employ equity financing in the short term; RXi also announced plans for a securities offering on Oct. 12.
The offering will be used to “enable the smooth integration of MirImmune Inc. into RXi in the event that RXi exercises its option to acquire MirImmune Inc., and the timely development of RXi’s current pipeline, as well as sd-rxRNA in cell therapy,” the company stated in its press release.
“Being a small company, we have to remain focused and be very diligent with our cash spend,” company representative Tamara McGrillen said. By entering into agreements with companies like MirImmune, RXi can “license out our technology for the possible development of new therapeutics in areas that could really make a difference in patients’ lives. With MirImmune, it made perfect sense for us to join together and bring value to both the company, our shareholders, and patients.”
Markey thinks “2016 will likely close in fine fashion” for RXi, citing progress in the company’s other programs. “The clinical study of Samcyprone, RXi’s wart treatment, is on schedule to complete enrollment shortly, so interim results should be available before year-end and final data should be out next summer,” the analyst wrote, adding the company’s Phase 1/2 trial for “RXI-109 for retinal scarring in wet AMD patients has enrolled 2 of the 3 cohorts and no evidence of toxicity has been reported to date.”
“We have three other clinical trials ongoing, and we are sticking to the timeline on those,” Pavco noted.
RXi also released its Q3/16 financial statements and a corporate update on Nov. 10.
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1) Tracy Salcedo compiled this article for Streetwise Reports LLC and provides services to Streetwise Reports as an independent contractor. She owns, or members of her immediate household or family own, shares of the following companies mentioned in this article: None. She is, or members of her immediate household or family are, paid by the following companies mentioned in this article: None.
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Additional Disclosures for this Content
Griffin Securities, RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp., Oct. 12, 2016
The analyst responsible for covering the securities in this report certify that the views expressed in this research report accurately reflect their personal views about the subject Companies mentioned and its securities. The analyst responsible for covering the securities in this report certify that no part of their compensation was, is, or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendation or view contained in this research report.
Griffin Securities does not maintain a market in the shares of these Companies or any other company mentioned in the report.
The analyst Keith A. Markey who is responsible for covering the securities in this report receives compensation based upon, among other factors, the overall profitability of Griffin Securities, including profits derived from investment banking revenue. Keith A. Markey who prepared the research report, did not receive any compensation from the Companies or any other companies mentioned in this report in connection with the preparation of this report.
The analyst Keith A. Markey who is responsible for covering the securities in this report currently does not own common stock in the Companies or any other companies mentioned in this report, but in the future may from time to time engage in transactions with respect to the Companies or other companies mentioned in the report.
Griffin Securities has received compensation from RXi Pharmaceuticals Corporation (RXII) in the past 12 months for non-investment banking services.
Griffin Securities from time to time in the future may request expenses to be paid for copying, printing, mailing and distribution of the report by the Companies and other companies mentioned in this report. Griffin Securities expects to receive, or intends to seek, compensation for investment banking services from the Companies in the next three months.
Edison Investment Research, RXi Pharmaceuticals Corp., Oct. 25, 2016
Edison has a restrictive policy relating to personal dealing. Edison Group does not conduct any investment business and, accordingly, does not itself hold any positions in the securities mentioned in this report. However, the respective directors, officers, employees and contractors of Edison may have a position in any or related securities mentioned in this report. Edison or its affiliates may perform services or solicit business from any of the companies mentioned in this report.
To the maximum extent permitted by law, Edison, its affiliates and contractors, and their respective directors, officers and employees will not be liable for any loss or damage arising as a result of reliance being placed on any of the information contained in this report and do not guarantee the returns on investments in the products discussed in this publication.