Professor Nicholas Barnes

School of Pharmacy
Professor of Neuropharmacology

Contact details

Institute of Clinical Sciences
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Nicholas Barnes is Professor of Neuropharmacology within the Institute of Clinical Sciences, and has been at the University of Birmingham Medical School since 1991. A Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society, Professor Barnes is a World-renowned translational pharmacologist recognised as one of the World’s Most Highly Cited Researchers (Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher). His research group investigate from cellular and molecular mechanisms to Phase II clinical trials. Professor Barnes is also the Principal Founder of Celentyx Ltd, a venture capital funded successful pharmaceutical research and development company focusing on diseases of the immune system and immuno-oncology; the company brings multi-£m benefit to the UK economy.

  • Current live funding as PI and Co-I - £8,678,502, Including grants from the Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, MoD (UK), Diabetes UK, British Medical Association and pharmaceutical industry
  • Number of research papers - 148 (including the most highly cited paper ever from the University of Birmingham)
  • Current h-index - 48
  • Current research group - 4 post-docs, 2 PhD students, 1 research technician


  • FBPhS
  • PhD
  • BSc


Professor Barnes is a translational neuropharmacologist within the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham and also the NHIR SRMRC (National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (SRMRC)) associated with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Professor Barnes’ research spans from cellular and molecular pharmacological mechanisms to assessing drug efficacy in Phase II clinical trial; with current funding over £8m from for example the MRC, NIHR, the MoD and ‘big and SME’ pharma. Professor Barnes has published over 140 research papers giving rise to an h-index of 48 (including being the Principal Author of the most highly cited research paper ever from the University of Birmingham); he is a member of a prestigious club being recognised as one of the World’s Most Highly Cited Researchers (Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher). Professor Barnes is Chairman of the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) Nomenclature Committee for 5-HT Receptors, a Councillor of the International Society for Serotonin Research and a Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society. He is Editor-in-Chief for the international journal Frontiers in Neuropharmacology and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University of Siena in Italy. Professor Barnes has advised the UK Government on issues concerning the misuse of drugs and polysubstance abuse.

Professor Barnes is also the Principal Founder and a Director of Celentyx Ltd; a venture capital financed successful research and development pharmaceutical company established in 2007; the company brings multi-£m benefit to the UK economy. In addition, research from Professor Barnes’ academic laboratory has also generated a number of revenue generating licensing deals with pharma and biotech for the University of Birmingham. Professor Barnes is called upon regularly at regional and national level to provide strategic and operational advice relevant to third stream ‘commercialisation’ activities.


Professor Barnes is a firm believer in the implementation of innovative pedagogy to deliver inspirational teaching sessions with efficient use of staff time. Evidence for which comes from his incorporation of blended learning, flipped teaching, engaged learning and problem-based learning sessions within undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. These sessions have proved popular with students as well as providing effective knowledge improvement.

Teaching Programmes 


  • MSc Pharmaceutical Enterprise: Creator and Programme Director


Postgraduate supervision

PhD students

  • Successfully supervised to completion as principal supervisor - 23


Professor Barnes’ primary research interest concerns the neurotransmitter and local hormone, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT; serotonin). Research performed by the Barnes Laboratory includes cellular and molecular approaches investigating various 5-HT receptors and the transporter, SERT, to proof of concept clinical investigations assessing the potential therapeutic utility of manipulating the 5-HT system in patients. In addition, the Barnes Group are performing pre-clinical and clinical investigations concerning the purinergic P2X7 receptor as a potential target to reduce the consequences of neurotrauma and improve patient outcomes. A further interest of the Barnes Group is to better understand the anti-scarring actions of the human protein decorin and to design decorin-mimetics with therapeutic potential.

A recent innovation from the Barnes Laboratory is the successful generation of human microglia differentiated from peripheral blood monocytes from healthy donors and patients with disease (view example results). This innovation allows modelling of microglia in the brain from a readily available source of cells and the impact of disease on the function of these cells (e.g. schizophrenia, neurotrauma and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease).

Academic Citizenship – Key positions

Responsible for the nomenclature of 5-HT receptors arising from different genes (currently 18 genes plus some ‘orphan’ 5-HT receptors) and the variants arising from post-translational modifications (e.g. alternative splicing and RNA editing). Guidelines also provide advice how to; pharmacologically identify responses mediated via individual 5-HT receptors (which agonists/antagonists and relevant concentrations); identify expression (mRNA and/or protein) of 5-HT receptor genes (PCR and qPCR primer sequences, which antibodies)

  • Fellow, British Pharmacological Society (BPS)
  • Translational Neuropharmacologist, NIHR SRMRC, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham
  • Member: Finance Committee, BPS
  • Councillor, International Society for Serotonin Research
  • Journal Editorships: 3
  • Honorary Professor: University of Melbourne (Australia)
  • Honorary Professor: University of Siena (Italy)
  • External Examiner
    • Undergraduate and post-graduate pharmacology programmes (UK and abroad)
    • PhD theses (UK and abroad)
  • Expert Neuropharmacologist for various TV and media networks
  • Invited external lectures (since 2009): 43

Other activities

Commercialisation & Knowledge Transfer – Key activities

  • Principal Founder, Celentyx Ltd; a successful VC-funded pharma R&D company originally spun-out from the University of Birmingham Medical School.
  • Multiple revenue-generating licence agreements with pharma and biotech concerning technologies from the Barnes Lab
  • Expert patent assessor; providing independent expert views to the European Patent Office
  • Expert consultant to pharma/biotech companies


Over 140 research papers including the most highly cited paper ever from the University of Birmingham. Current h-index - 48. Recognised as one of the World’s Most Highly Cited Researchers (Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher).

For a full list of publications see:

View all publications in research portal