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Christopher Barnes, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Biology and Sarafan ChEM-H Institute Scholar whose research leverages interdisciplinary approaches to address fundamental principles of viral-host interactions for therapeutic benefit. Before arriving at Stanford, Dr. Barnes earned degrees in Psychology (BA) and Chemistry (BS, MA) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (G. Pielak), and completed his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Pittsburgh (G. Calero). Following this training, he completed postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology, where he combined biophysical methods with in vivo approaches to understand how viruses such as HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 infect host cells and elicit specific humoral immune responses (P. Bjorkman). Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has made significant contributions to our understanding of antibody-spike interactions through in-depth structural analysis that detail the specificities and mechanisms of how monoclonal neutralizing antibodies bind spike to prevent infection. His work in structure-guided approaches to the treatment of infectious disease has earned him several awards, including recognition as a Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, an HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellow, and appointment as a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub investigator. Now, the Barnes laboratory investigates viral-host interactions and translates knowledge of the structural correlates of antibody-mediated neutralization of viruses into the rational development of highly protective antibodies. The long-term goal of this work will be structure-based design of potent and stable immunogens for vaccination against emerging and re-emerging zoonotic viruses.
Research in our lab is aimed at defining the structural correlates of broad and potent antibody-mediated neutralization of viruses. We combine biophysical and structural methods (e.g., cryo-EM), protein engineering, and in vivo approaches to understand how enveloped viruses infect host cells and elicit antigen-specific immune responses. We are particularly interested in the co-evolution of HIV-1 and broadly-neutralizing IgG antibodies (bNAbs), which may hold the key to the development of an effective HIV-1 vaccine. In addition, we are investigating antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 and related zoonotic coronaviruses (CoV), with the related goal of developing broadly-protective immunotherapies and vaccines against variants of concern and emerging CoV threats. HIV-1; SARS-CoV-2; coronaviruses; cryo-EM; crystallography; vaccines; directed evolution