Betsy J. Barnes, PhD

Professor & Head, Laboratory of Autoimmune and Cancer Research,
Center for Autoimmune, Musculoskeletal and Hematopoietic Diseases,
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

Phone: (516) 562-0434

About the Investigator

Prior to joining the health system, Dr. Barnes was an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Genetics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in the New Jersey Medical School –Cancer Center. She received her PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999. Dr. Barnes did her postdoctoral training as a fellow in the NIH-sponsored Anti-Cancer Drug Development program in the Department of Oncology at Johns Hopkins University Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. She then became an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University and moved her laboratory to Rutgers in 2006 where she became a leader in the field of Interferon and cytokine research.

Dr. Barnes has mentored many successful PhD and MD/PhD students that have gone on to have successful careers in science. She travels both nationally and internationally to deliver lectures on inflammation, immunity, tumor-immunity and autoimmune disease. She is a well-funded researcher who has established numerous collaborations with the Pharmaceutical Industry in the hopes of developing new therapeutic options for patients with autoimmune disease and cancer.

Research Focus

Dr. Barnes’ laboratory studies a family of transcription factors – interferon (IFN) regulatory factors (IRFs) – that regulate immune cell signaling and the cellular response to extracellular stressors. She was the first to clone the family member IRF5 and show that it is an integral regulator of type I IFN gene expression. Later studies demonstrated its significant role(s) in mediating Toll-like receptor signaling, DNA damage signaling and death receptor signaling. Her lab is thus interested in understanding the role of IRF5 as an immune regulator and a tumor suppressor.

With the identification of IRF5 as an autoimmune susceptibility gene for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 2005, her lab began to study how alterations in IRF5 contribute to SLE disease pathogenesis in both human and mouse models of SLE. Since the IRF5 risk locus has now been associated with susceptibility to numerous autoimmune diseases, her lab has a vested interest in determining the more global pathologic role of IRF5 in autoimmune diseases.

Given that the immune system plays critical roles in tumor development and susceptibility as well, her lab studies how alterations within a tumor can change the way the immune system recognizes it. Her labs specific interest is in blood cancers and breast cancer. The lab focus is to determine the multifunctional role of IRF5 as a tumor suppressor and a critical regulator of the tumor-immune microenvironment.

Lab Members

Dan Li, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Research: Studies murine mammary gland development and the mechanisms that lead to spontaneous mammary tumorigenesis.

Saurav De (Rutgers graduate student)
Visiting Scholar
Research: Studies the role of IRF5 in human B cell development, differentiation, and effector function.

Dan (Iris) Li, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Research: Studies the factors that regulate how our immune system sees a tumor using both human and murine models of breast cancer. Investigates genotype-dependent functional effects in human B cells.

Su Song, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Research: Studies novel therapeutic drugs in murine models of lupus.

Bharati Matta, BS
Institute Scientist
Research: Studies the role of IRF5 in murine B cell development, differentiation and effector function. Manages the laboratory.

Victoria Nelson, BS
Research Assistant
Research: Manages the laboratory and conducts experiments associated with both the breast cancer research program and autoimmune program.


University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC
Degree: BA/BS
Field of Study: Chemistry/Biology

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Degree: PhD
Field of Study: Medicinal Chemistry

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine,
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD

Degree: Postdoc
Field of Study: Virology/Oncology

Honors and Awards

2015 Awarded membership in The Henry Kunkel Society
2014 Laboratory Travel Award, American Association of Immunology
2012 Early Career Faculty Award, American Association of Immunology
2008 co-awarded the Dolph Adams Award from the Journal of Leukocyte Biology
2001 Milstein Young Investigator Award, International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research
2000 Cancer Drug Development (ACDD) Fellowship, National Institute of Health (NIH
1998 Caroline Dissertation Fellowship, UNC at Chapel Hill, NC
1998 Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratory Scholarship for Women in Graduate Medical Programs
1997 NIH Cancer Education Fellowship, UNC at Chapel Hill, NC
1993 Franklin H. Allen Biology Scholarship, UNC at Wilmington, NC
1992 American Chemical Society Outstanding Chemistry Student Award, UNC at Wilmington, NC
1992 New Hanover County Premedical Scholarship, UNC at Wilmington, NC

  1. Pimenta EM, Barnes BJ. (2015) “A conserved region within interferon regulatory factor 5 that controls breast cancer cell migration through a cytoplasmic and transcription-independent mechanism.” Mol Cancer, Feb 4;14(1):32.
  2. Pimenta EM, De S, Feng D, Hall K, Ran S, Barnes BJ. (2014) “IRF5 is a novel regulator of CXCL13 expression in breast cancer that regulates CXCR5+ B and T cell trafficking to tumor-conditioned media.” Immunol Cell Biol, Dec 23. doi: 10.1038/icb.2014.110.
  3. Pimenta EM, Barnes BJ. (2014) “Role of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS) in anti-tumor immunity: Potential tumor-induced cytokines/chemokines that regulate TLS formation in epithelial-derived cancers.” Cancers 6:969-997.
  4. De S, Barnes BJ. (2014) “B cell transcription factors: Potential new therapeutic targets for SLE.” Clin Immunol 152:140-151.
  5. Feng D, Barnes BJ. (2013) “Bioinformatics analysis of the factors controlling type I IFN gene expression in autoimmune disease and virus-induced immunity.” Front Immunol 4:291. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00291.
  6. Barnes BJ. (2013) Editorial: “Are regulatory B10 cells a viable target for autoimmune diseases?” J Leuk Biol, 94(4):548-5503.
  7. Bi X, Feng D, Korczeniewska J, Alper N, Hu G, Barnes BJ. (2013) “Deletion of Irf5 protects hematopoietic stem cells from DNA damage-induced apoptosis and suppresses ϒ-irradiation-induced thymic lymphoma genesis.” Oncogene 2013 Aug 5. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.295.
  8. Stone RC, Du P, Feng D, Dhawan K, Ronnblom L, Eloranta ML, Donnelly R, Barnes BJ. (2013) “RNA-Seq for enrichment and analysis of IRF5 transcript expression in SLE.” 8(1):e54487.
  9. Korczeniewska J, Barnes BJ. (2013) “The COP9 signalosome interacts with and regulates IRF5 protein stability.” Mol Cell Biol, 33(6):1124-1138.
  10. Yang L, Feng D, Bi X, Stone RC, Barnes BJ. (2012) “Monocytes from Irf5-/- mice have an intrinsic defect in their response to pristane-induced lupus.” J Immunol. 189:3741-3750.
  11. Feng D, Yang L, Bi X, Stone RC, Patel P, Barnes BJ. (2012) “Irf5-deficient mice are protected from pristane-induced lupus via increased Th2 cytokines and altered IgG class switching.” European J. Immunol. 42(6):1477-87.
  12. Stone RC, Feng D, Deng J, Singh S, Yang L, Fitzgerald-Bocarsly P, Elorants ML, Ronnblom L, Barnes BJ. (2012) “IRF5 activation in monocytes of SLE patients is triggered by circulating autoantigens independent of type I IFN.” Arthritis & Rheum. 64(3):788-798.

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