Published on 23/01/2023
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TG2 protein structure
  • Researchers in the School of Biosciences partner with preclinical-stage biotechnology start-up company to develop drugs for fibrotic diseases
  • Professor Martin Griffin and team develop TG2 inhibitors to help treat a serious chronic lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Isterian Biotech is part of Cambrian BioPharma who have been working with Aston University since 2019.

Aston University scientists are working with start-up company, Isterian Biotech, part of Cambrian BioPharma, to develop novel drugs to treat fibrotic diseases such as lung disease.

The focus of preclinical-stage biotechnology company Isterian Biotech, is on developing novel drugs to stop or reverse the pathological accumulation of crosslinked proteins, commonly observed in all major organs with age.

As we age a chronic increase of crosslinked proteins occurs in the extracellular matrix (ECM), that surround, support, and give structure to the cells and tissues in the body. These crosslinked proteins are difficult for the body to degrade and over time can make organs stiff and dysfunctional, ultimately resulting in fibrosis. Reversing the accumulation of these pathological crosslinks will greatly contribute to reducing fibrosis. 

The start-up is working to develop small molecule inhibitors of transglutaminase 2 also known as TG2, which is one of the major crosslinking enzymes in the human body, that becomes more active during ageing - thus resulting in fibrotic diseases such as a type of lung disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Isterian President and Chairman of the Board, Georg C Terstappen, PhD said: "Isterian's strategy of combining rational drug design with efficient multiparametric profiling of synthesized small molecules has been both impressive and highly productive. Notably, for one of our highly potent and selective TG2 inhibitors, we have recently demonstrated efficacy in a mouse model of lung fibrosis for the first time. 

"Using this state-of-the-art approach to drug discovery combined with an impressive team gives us great confidence in the future of this novel company." 

IPF is a progressive, irreversible disease that is characterized by pathological crosslinking of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins (a large network of proteins and other molecules that surround, support and give structure to the cells and tissues in the body) leading to excessive deposition of collagen. This means that in IPF scar tissue or fibrosis, builds up around the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs and reduces the ability to transfer oxygen that is breathed into the blood, resulting in severe restriction of lung capacity and function. 

IPF is the most common form of pulmonary fibrosis. The disease affects between 200,000 and 300,000 people globally. Statistics from the charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis suggest there are about 30,000 people living with IPF in the UK with an estimated 6,000 new cases of the condition each year. The disease usually develops in people aged 70 and older and is more common in men. But it can occur in younger individuals, particularly if there is a family history of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

The company was founded by capitalizing on over 35 years of scientific research from the laboratory of Professor Martin Griffin and his team Dr Dan Rathbone and Dr Vivian Wang at Aston University.   

Their work with small molecule inhibitors selective for TG2 has demonstrated a reduction of fibrosis in multiple organs in a number of animal models. In 2019, Aston University partnered with Cambrian to form Isterian Biotech with a mission to develop safe and effective TG2 inhibitors to treat Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a devastating fibrotic disease of the lung.

Professor Martin Griffin, Biosciences Research Group, Aston University said: “We are delighted to continue our work with Isterian researching how we can further develop TG2 inhibitors to help tackle this awful disease.” 

CEO of Cambrian BioPharma, James Peyer, commented: "As Cambrian continues on its mission to build medicines that will redefine healthcare in the 21st century, we are very thankful to find brilliant scientists such as Martin and his team that are willing to break the mold. Isterian and its work to reduce fibrosis are a perfect fit alongside the other pipeline companies our team has announced in 2022."

The company's current pipeline includes an advanced preclinical-stage TG2 inhibitor for inhaled administration and several structurally unrelated back-up compounds for the treatment of IPF. 

For more information about the School of Biosciences at Aston University, please visit our website.

Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

In 2022 Aston University was ranked in the top 25 of the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

About Isterian Biotech

Isterian Biotech is a preclinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing novel drugs to remove excess pathological protein crosslinks from fibrotic organs for the treatment of fibrosis, and to extend healthy lifespan. The company's therapeutic agents in development target the enzyme transglutaminase (TG2), which plays a key role in protein crosslinking and in activation of TGF-β signaling. The company is a Cambrian BioPharma pipeco. For more information, please visit 

About Cambrian BioPharma

Cambrian BioPharma Inc is building the medicines that will redefine healthcare in the 21st century – therapeutics to lengthen healthspan, the period of life spent in good health. As a Distributed Development Company, Cambrian is advancing multiple scientific breakthroughs, each targeting a biological driver of aging. Cambrian's approach is to develop interventions that treat specific diseases first, then deploy them as preventative medicines to improve the overall quality of life during aging. To date, Cambrian has more than a dozen novel therapeutics in development across its pipeline. For more information, please visit  or follow us on Twitter @CambrianBio and LinkedIn.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Rebecca Hume, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44)7557 745416 or email:

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