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Novel Bristol therapeutic to target atheroschlerosis

Professor Jason Johnson has been studying the condition known as Atherosclerosis, where the build-up of fatty deposits (atherosclerotic plaques) in arteries can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial diseaseUniversity of Bristol

Press release issued: 24 June 2024

Scientists at the University of Bristol have uncovered a new disease driving mechanism which they are aiming to target to help treat the development of atherosclerotic plaques.

The project to develop the new therapeutic, known as IMSET, is being led by Jason Johnson, Professor of Cardiovascular Pathology within the Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences (THS).

Following successful initial testing, Professor Johnson and his team have been awarded substantial funding through the beLAB1407 BRIDGE partnership to continue developing the new therapeutic.

Professor Johnson has been studying the condition known as Atherosclerosis, where the build-up of fatty deposits (atherosclerotic plaques) in arteries can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease.

Investigating how immune cells in the blood known as monocytes/macrophages contribute to the formation of these fatty plaques within arteries, the researchers have discovered that these cells can exist in different forms and there are particular macrophages which drive the development of the plaques.

Professor Johnson explained: “Looking within these bad macrophages, we’ve identified a certain genetic target we have termed IMSET– which is a central regulator of their behaviour.

“This unique award will allow us to develop a therapeutic to target this novel non-coding RNA, and validate its use in patients with heart disease.

“Together with beLAB1407, we aim to develop a new treatment regime that could play a significant role in reducing one of the key factors in cardiovascular diseases.”

The new treatment is anticipated to be able to help patients who are present at the hospital having survived a heart attack or stroke. This patient population is at an increased risk of a further heart attack or stroke, and a drug targeting IMSET could help prevent recurrent cardiovascular diseases that underlie the majority of associated deaths in the UK and globally.

Current treatment for patients who are already on optimal medical therapy such as statins involves interventional and invasive treatment, for example the placement of a stent or bypass surgery.

beLAB1407, one of Evotec’s global portfolio of BRIDGE partnerships, was launched in 2021 by Evotec and collaborating partners to identify and advance novel and breakthrough drug discovery opportunities across multiple therapeutic areas. The University of Bristol joined beLAB1407 in November 2023.

Under the partnership, the University of Bristol benefits from access to funding, expertise, and drug discovery and development platforms spanning multiple disease areas. This award is the University's first from the new partnership with Evotec arranged by the research commercialisation team, a part of Bristol Innovations. 

Further information

About Evotec SE
Evotec is a life science company with a unique business model that delivers on its mission to discover and develop highly effective therapeutics and make them available to the patients. The Company’s multimodality platform comprises a unique combination of innovative technologies, data and science for the discovery, development, and production of first-in-class and best-in-class pharmaceutical products. Evotec provides high value pipeline co-creating partnerships and solutions to all Top 20 Pharma and over 800 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, as well as other healthcare stakeholders. Evotec has strategic activities in a broad range of currently underserved therapeutic areas, including e.g. neurology, oncology, as well as metabolic and infectious diseases. Within these areas of expertise, Evotec aims to create the world-leading co-owned pipeline for innovative therapeutics and has to-date established a portfolio of more than 200 proprietary and co-owned R&D projects from early discovery to clinical development. Evotec operates globally with more than 5,000 highly qualified people. The Company’s sites in Europe and the USA offer highly synergistic technologies and services and operate as complementary clusters of excellence.

For additional information please go to and follow us on X/Twitter @Evotec and LinkedIn

About Evotec’s BRIDGE model: Partnering to accelerate innovation 
Evotec has created a new paradigm to translate early-stage academic research to drug discovery and development called “BRIDGE” (Biomedical Research, Innovation & Development Generation Efficiency), an integrated accelerator-by-award framework to tap into academic science to accelerate the formation of spin-out companies and generate collaborations with Pharma and biotech. Through these efforts, Evotec has defined a new formula to fast-track early-stage drug discovery. Since the launch of the BRIDGE model in 2016, Evotec has formed and funded a growing number of strategic collaborations, such as LAB282, LAB150, Danube Labs, beLAB2122,beLAB1407, LAB eN² and 65LAB, as well as investments into start-up studios focused on academic innovation such as Autobahn-Labs, Argobio and Extend.

Please visit to learn more about Evotec’s BRIDGEs. 

For more information on beLAB1407 please visit beLAB1407 – Building BRIDGES together

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