Peter J. Barnes (respiratory scientist)

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Peter Barnes
Prof PJ Barnes.tif
Born Peter John Barnes
1946 (age 69–70)
Birmingham, West Midlands
Residence London
Nationality British
Fields Respiratory scientist and clinician
Institutions National Heart & Lung Institute
Imperial College London
Royal Brompton Hospital, London
Alma mater University of Cambridge
University of Oxford Medical School
Known for translational research in asthma and COPD
Notable awards Founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences 1998, Fellow of the Royal Society 2007, Member of the Academia Europaea 2012

Professor Peter John Barnes, MA, DM, DSc, FRCP, FCCP, FMedSci, FRS (born October 29, 1946) is a British respiratory scientist and clinician, a specialist in the mechanisms and treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).[1] He is currently Professor of Thoracic Medicine at the National Heart & Lung Institute,[2] Head of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College and Honorary Consultant Physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital London.[3]

Early life[edit]

Barnes was born in Birmingham and went to school at Leamington College. He won an Open Scholarship to St Catharine's College University of Cambridge where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences (first-class honours) in 1969. He moved to the Clinical School University of Oxford where he was a Scholar and graduated BM, BCh in 1972.

Medical career[edit]

After qualifying in medicine, he undertook clinical training at the Radcliffe Infirmary Oxford, followed by posts in London at Brompton Hospital, Queen Square and UCH. In 1978 he moved to the Royal Postgraduate Medical School to undertake research in respiratory pharmacology and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine(DM) from the University of Oxford. In 1981 he spent a year at the Cardiovascular Research Institute UCSF Medical Center. Returning to London, he worked as a Senior Registrar at Hammersmith Hospital and in 1982 was appointed Consultant Physician and Clinical Senior Lecturer at RPMS. He then took up the newly created Chair of Clinical Pharmacology at the NHLI in 1985, which was subsequently incorporated as a postgraduate institute into Imperial College and became an Honorary Consultant Physician at Royal Brompton Hospital[4]

. In 1987 he was appointed to the established Chair of Thoracic Medicine at NHLI and became Head of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College.[5]


His research initially focussed on adrenergic regulation of the airways, the role of endogenous catecholamines (particularly epinephrine), adrenergic receptors and the role of cholinergic neural mechanisms in asthma. He was the first to map the distribution of receptors in the lung using radioligand autoradiography.[6] His group investigated the role of neuropeptides in asthma and he proposed the axon reflex mechanism of asthma[7] Their investigation into the role of inflammatory mechanisms in asthma and the role of inflammatory mediators, lead to an understanding of how transcription factors, such as NF-κB, regulate the expression of multiple inflammatory genes in the airways and how glucocorticosteroids suppress inflammation by switching off these transcriptional mechanisms.[8] His research explored mechanisms of severe asthma and in particular steroid-resistance in asthma, identifying several molecular mechanisms. He also investigated how β2-agonists and corticosteroids interact as these are the most commonly used drug therapies for asthma. His research group has also investigated inflammatory mechanisms in COPD, using the same approaches that had been used in asthma.[9] An important achievement was to elucidate the molecular mechanism for the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticosteroids in asthma through the recruitment of histone deacetylase 2(HDAC2) to activated inflammatory genes, thereby reversing the histone acetylation that is involved in inflammatory gene activation.[10] His research also investigated why glucocorticosteroids are ineffective in suppressing inflammation in COPD, demonstrating that this is due to decreased activity and expression of HDAC2[11] as a result of oxidative stress through tyrosine nitration and phosphorylation via PI3K-δ. He also showed that theophylline was able to restore HDAC2 and reverse steroid resistance in COPD by selectively inhibiting oxidant-activated PI3Kδ.[12] He also pioneered the use of non-invasive markers to monitor inflammation in the airways and particularly exhaled nitric oxide, which is increased in asthma and reduced by steroid therapy.[13] His research has had a major impact on current understanding of asthma and COPD mechanisms and how current therapies for these diseases work. This has identified several novel targets for therapy.

As a result of his research on steroid-resistance he co-founded (together with Garth Rapeport and Kazuhiro Ito) a spin-out company within Imperial College called RespiVert in 2007,[14] which has discovered novel inhaled therapies that are now in clinical development for treatment of severe asthma and COPD since the company was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2010.[15]


Barnes is the author of over 1,000 publications in peer reviewed journals[16] and is one of the most highly cited scientists in the world.[17] He has edited or co-edited over 50 books on asthma, COPD and respiratory pharmacology.

Family life[edit]

He married Olivia Harvard-Watts, a psychotherapist, in 1976 and they have three sons: Adam (born 1978), Toby (born 1983) and Julian (born 1988).[18]

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Peter Barnes". Google scholar. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Curriculum vitae". 
  3. ^ "Professor Peter Barnes". For healthcare professionals. Royal Brompton Hospital. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Professor Peter Barnes". For healthcare professionals. Royal Brompton Hospital. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Curriculum vitae". 
  6. ^ Barnes PJ, Basbaum CB, Nadel JA, Roberts JM. Localization of ß-adrenoceptors in mammalian lung by light microscopic autoradiography. Nature 1982; 299:444-447. PMID 6289123
  7. ^ Barnes PJ. Asthma as an axon reflex. Lancet 1986;i:242-245.PMID 2418322
  8. ^ Barnes PJ, Karin M. Nuclear factor-κB: a pivotal transcription factor in chronic inflammatory diseases. N Engl J Med 1997;336:1066-1071.PMID 9091804
  9. ^ Barnes P. J. "Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease". New Engl J Med 2000;343:269-280
  10. ^ Ito K, Barnes P J, Adcock I M. "Glucocorticoid receptor recruitment of histone deacetylase 2 inhibits IL-1β-induced histone H4 acetylation on lysines 8 and 12". Mol Cell Biol, 2000:20:6891-6903 PMID 10958685
  11. ^ Ito K, Ito M, Elliott W M, Cosio B, Caramori G, Kon O M, Barczyk A, Hayashi M, Adcock I M, Hogg J C, Barnes P J. "Decreased histone deacetylase activity and severity of chronic obstuctive pulmonary disease". New Engl J Med, 2005;352:1967-1976. PMID 15860753
  12. ^ To M, Ito K, Kizawa Y, Failla M, Ito M, Kusama T, Elliot M, Hogg J C, Adcock I M, Barnes P J. "Targeting phosphoinositide-3-kinase-δ with theophylline reverses corticosteroid insensitivity in COPD". Am J Resp Crit Care Med 2010;182:897-904. PMID 20224070
  13. ^ Kharitonov S A, Yates D, Robbins R A, Logan-Sinclair R, Shinebourne E, Barnes P J. "Increased nitric oxide in exhaled air of asthmatic patients". Lancet 1994;343:133-135. PMID 7904001
  14. ^
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  16. ^ Publication list
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  18. ^
  19. ^ "Croonian Lectures (Sadleir Trust)" (PDF). Royal College of Physicians. 

External sources[edit]