Drug Discovery Group

Person with purple gloves testing samples with beaker in background

Our group focuses on drug discovery and development through phenotypic screening assays rather than single-target approach. We develop and validate in vitro and in vivo phenotypic screening assays. Our in vitro cell models are mostly based on human primary cells, rather than commercially available cell lines.

Currently our group is focussing on the development of novel anti-fibrotic drugs using a phenotypic assay approach. While fibrosis is the causative pathology of more than 40% of mortality globally, the treatment options are limited in numbers and efficacy. Our group aims to develop novel anti-fibrotic medicines through phenotypic screening. We have developed and validated phenotypic assays amenable to high throughput screening, as well as secondary functional assays. One of our workstreams has identified two hit compounds which have been further tested and validated in in vivo models and are now being taken to clinical studies

The unmet need for anti-fibrotic therapeutics has recently been highlighted by the risk of fibrotic conditions being increased by Covid-19 infection. It is now estimated that 5-30% of patients who have had severe Covid-19 infection are at the risk of developing long term lung, heart or kidney problems which are associated with fibrosis. Moreover, the number of skin burns have increased significantly during Covid-19 lockdown; some of these burns may cause scarring, which also is a fibrotic condition. Therefore new treatments that can prevent fibrosis formation are urgently needed. Our work towards achieving this has recently been highlighted in BBC News.

Read more about our approach:

We offer our in vitro cellular phenotypic assays to external groups and organisations; we will be happy to test your lead/candidate compounds/molecules. We are also open to discussion around development of novel phenotypic assays for fibrosis or other indications with unmet need.

Please contact mtrc@anglia.ac.uk for more information.


Prof Selim Cellek, Group Leader

Dr Marcus Ilg, Research Fellow

Current doctoral students

Alice Lapthorn

Past doctoral students

William Stebbeds

Marta Mateus

Marcus Ilg


Development of phenotypic screening assay for Peyronie’s disease in collaboration with Dr David Ralph and Asif Muneer at University College London Hospital. Current stage: the assay has been developed and validated, screened small molecule compounds; two hits validated in vitro and in vivo; now seeking funding for a clinical trial. 

Development of phenotypic screening assay for burns patients in collaboration with Prof Peter Dziewulski, St Andrew Anglia Ruskin Burns and Plastic Surgery Research Unit. Current stage: Assay has been developed and validated, screened small molecule compounds; hit validation in progress.

Projects being developed: Phenotypic screening assays using human primary cardiac and lung fibroblasts.


Contact us

Email: mtrc@anglia.ac.uk