September 21, 2021 – Ludwig Oxford welcomes Ellie Barnes to our community, which she has joined as a Ludwig Adjunct Scholar. A professor of hepatology and experimental medicine at the Nuffield Department of Medicine and honorary consultant in gastroenterology and General Medicine at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Barnes will retain her laboratory in The Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research, where she leads a research program focused on the T cell immunology of gut and liver diseases, including cancer. Her appointment at the Oxford Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research will allow further evolution of collaborations with research groups at the Branch in the areas of infection, immunology, cancer epigenetics and early cancer detection.
Barnes is internationally recognized for her research on viral hepatitis. Her group is developing T cell pan-genotypic vaccines for hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevention and hepatitis B virus (HBV) cure using simian adenoviral and other viral vectors. This work has involved characterizing the genetic diversity of HCV and understanding how the virus evades host immunity in natural infection and in response to vaccination, and Barnes’s research has informed health care policies on HCV treatment globally.
Working to improve treatments for patients with HCV, Barnes led the Medical Research Council-funded STOP-HCV stratified medicine consortium. This national programme has developed high-throughput viral sequencing integrated with host genetic analysis, undertaken RNA sequencing in blood and liver, and identified immune parameters and blood biomarkers of HCV infection. Each of these parameters can be used to identify markers linked to treatment failure and the development of liver cancer. The DNA enrichment probe sequencing method for viral hepatitis developed by Barnes’s laboratory has now been adopted by Public Health England laboratories, allowing sequencing of whole genomes of HCV to be performed at scale for the first time.
More recently, Barnes’s focus has expanded to include research into the risk of liver cancer, which is elevated by hepatitis C infection and other conditions. She leads the £2.57m Cancer Research UK-funded DeLIVER programme for the earlier detection of liver cancer, which includes the work of Ludwig Oxford’s Chunxiao Song and Benjamin Schuster-Böckler on TAPS technology for DNA methylation detection.
Ludwig is delighted to welcome Barnes to the Oxford Branch and the broader Ludwig community.