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, Ellie Barnes will retain her laboratory in The Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research, where she leads a research programme focused on T cell immunology relevant to gut and liver diseases, including cancer. Her appointment at Oxford Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research will allow further evolution of collaborations with research groups in the Branch in the areas of infection, immunology, cancer epigenetics and early cancer detection.
Professor Barnes is internationally recognised 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 involved characterising the genetic diversity of HCV and understanding how the virus evades host immunity in natural infection and in response to vaccination, which continues to inform healthcare policies in HCV treatment globally.
Working to improve treatments for patients with HCV, Professor 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’ lab 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, her focus has expanded to include research into the risk of liver cancer, which is elevated by hepatitis C infection and other conditions, for early cancer detection. 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 Drs Chunxiao Song and Benjamin Schuster-Böckler on TAPS technology for DNA methylation detection.
Ludwig are delighted to welcome this acclaimed scientist to the Branch and the broader Ludwig community.