BUSINESS heavyweights Brian Kennedy and Sir Brian Souter have thrown their support behind a Borders-based drug firm that aims to make chemotherapy four times more effective than current treatments.

The tycoons have participated in a £1.8 million funding round at Ryboquin ahead of a planned acquisition of current partner Nanogenic Solutions, which has developed a method for “revolutionising” the treatment of diseases at a genetic level.

Mr Kennedy, who teamed up with Graeme Souness in an ultimately failed attempt to acquire Rangers in 2012, has also joined the board of the Ryboquin.

The Selkirk-based company’s executive chairman Paul Murray said the backing of Mr Kennedy and Sir Brian was “testimony to the potential of Ryboquin”.

The group’s chief executive officer Alan Walker added: “Mr Kennedy rose from fairly modest circumstances to a personal wealth of many hundreds of millions through his business acumen. He’s successful, he’s shrewd and he is a nice guy who is easy to work with. He’s already brought a new dimension of big business to what is still quite a small company.”

Mr Kennedy said: “I am delighted to be part of Ryboquin and to be working with the team that could make great progress in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.”

Spun out of Edinburgh-based medicine developer Ectopharma in 2013, Ryboquin is focused on commercialising patented intellectual property in the area of delivering gene therapy, primarily to cancer patients.

Going forward, he said the business would continue to develop its own products, but had also agreed in principle to acquire Nanogenics.

Ryboquin currently licenses Nanogenics’ gene therapy delivery system LipTide, which was initially developed by University College London.

He said there was no timetable for the acquisition but that a seven-figure investment would likely be required in the future.

“The acquisition is agreed but not yet actioned so at some point we will require further funding. The implication is that it is good to have shareholders who have a history of wealth,” he said.

Mr Walker added that LipTide gave the business a potential revenue stream.

“To be quite frank, it’s been tough trying to raise money through traditional sources,” he said. “We don’t have venture capital money, which is why we place the emphasis on high net worth individuals. But if we can make LipTide a commercial success we can become cash flow positive and the need for equity funding goes down, if not goes away.”

The current £1.8m round, led by existing backers, business angel group TRI Capital and Scottish Investment Bank, will be used to accelerate product development and finance corporate expansion.

Mr Walker said clinical trials of its Ryboquin ECP-102 product, currently being developed with the University of Strathclyde, will take place in 2019, with Manchester’s Christie hospital the likely venue.

Ryboquin ECP-102 aims to radically improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, by utilising LipTide, a microscopic particle which delivers RNA (Ribonucleic acid) to affected cells. RNA is one of four major macromolecules, along with DNA, which are essential for all known forms of life.

“When the human genome was cracked, we thought we had the solution to all these genetic diseases, but you couldn’t deliver the genetic material to the right place and only the right place, so this great promise was not realised,” said Mr Thomson. “Nanogenics’ product solves that problem and actually delivers the genetic material.”

Currently, there are believed to be some 8,000 diseases caused by mutations in genes, from cystic fibrosis to cancers. And developing a drug delivery system that can treat such diseases on a targeted cellular level has become one of the biggest pursuits in global biotechnology.

“This is what genetic medicine has been waiting for all these years; if you can affect specific genes and change [a patient’s] genetic make-up, you’re looking at a revolutionary treatment”.

Mr Walker said the company was in discussions with global pharmaceutical companies to promote LipTide. He has recently returned from a trade show in California where he held meetings with 36 potential partners.