Access Pharmaceuticals Inc. followed the hiring of a new CEO with a plan to expand its oncology pipeline through the acquisition of Somanta Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about $12.2 million in stock.

Stephen Seiler, a biotechnology industry veteran who joined Access as president and CEO in January, said he expects the move might put the recently struggling company back on investors' radars.

A letter of intent calls for Access, of Dallas, to issue about 1.5 million shares, or 13 percent of the combined company, to acquire Somanta, of Irvine, Calif., which has a Phase II cancer compound and three more nearing the clinical-development stage.

"We are now in the position to consolidate our pipeline and move forward as a real player in the cancer space," Seiler told BioWorld Today. He said the move was part of an effort to position Access as an emerging biopharmaceutical company developing products for cancer and cancer supportive care.

"The acquisition of Somanta helps us build out the cancer franchise," Seiler said. "The mergers of the pipelines are very complementary, as are the management teams. There's essentially no overlap. This is a major move for us."

Somanta is a thinly traded company that gained an OTC Bulletin Board listing about a year ago through a reverse merger. Its Phase II product, being tested in recurrent glioblastoma and in prostate cancer, is sodium phenylbutyrate, which is believed to have multiple mechanisms of action, including inhibition of histone deacetylase.

Somanta's stock (OTC BB:SMPM) gained 28 cents Wednesday, or 34.2 percent, to close at $1.10. Access' stock (OTC BB:ACCP), which was the subject of a 1-for-5 reverse split last year, gained 11 cents to close at $8.25.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter.

Once completed, Access would have phenylbutyrate and its lead compound, ProLindac - a DACH platinum prodrug - in Phase II testing. Seiler said Access would plan to move the other three cancer compounds from Somanta into clinical testing in 2008.

Those products are Alchemix, a small-molecule, pan-target inhibitor; Prodrax, a small-molecule family of prodrugs designed to enable compounds to remain inert until they reach the hypoxic regions of tumors; and Angiolix, a humanized monoclonal antibody that targets lactadherin, a protein that stimulates vasculature growth upstream of VEGF, Seiler said.

Seiler said among the plans at Access for the next year are to continue enrollment of existing Phase II trials of ProLindac in head and neck cancer and ovarian cancer, to begin a trial of ProLindac in colorectal cancer in the fourth quarter and to start a Phase IIb trial of phenylbutyrate in glioblastoma. Access also plans to find a commercialization partner for MuGard - an oral rinse for treating oral mucositis that was approved in December - in Europe in the first half of this year and in the U.S. in the second half.

"Much of this now is about execution," he said.

Access has 11 employees and Somanta has five. Somanta also has relationships with academic centers in the UK, from which it got some of its products.