Professor Prem Kumar

Professor Prem Kumar

Institute of Clinical Sciences
Director of the Institute of Clinical Sciences
Professor of Physiological Science

Contact details

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

Prem Kumar is a Professor of Physiological Science and Director of the Institute of Clinical Sciences. 

His research interests are in the field of chemoreception, with a particular emphasis on carotid body and chemotransduction mechanisms in health and disease and in the reflex responses to hypoxia and changes in blood glucose concentrations.

Professor Kumar has served on a number of Journal Editorial Boards, including the Journal of Physiology, Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology and the Journal of Applied Physiology. In addition, he is a member of the Executive Committee of the Physiological Society and Chair of the Publications Committee. He is also a member of the International Committee of the American Physiological Society.

Professor Kumar is an enthusiastic teacher and holds key positions in the delivery and administration of undergraduate and postgraduate medical training at Birmingham as well as performing duties as an External Examiner at other UK and International Universities.


  • D.Phil (Oxon) 1986
  • B.Sc (Hons) Physiology (Leeds) 1982


Prem Kumar graduated as a Physiologist from the University of Leeds in 1982 and went on to complete a D.Phil (Ph.D) at the University of Oxford, working with Drs Bob Torrance and Piers Nye, where he became interested in understanding how the body senses and responds to changes in its blood chemical composition. He followed this with a brief postdoctoral position at the University of Reading where, under the leadership of Professor Mark Hanson, he extended his interests into an understanding of the development of chemoreception during fetal and neonatal life. This led to a Lectureship appointment at the University of Birmingham in 1990, where he moved via a Senior Lectureship, Readership position and now holds a Chair. A 5-year Lister Institute Fellowship was awarded to him between 1995-2000 and during this period he worked to develop an in vitro carotid body preparation that has allowed him to examine transduction processes that would not have been possible to study in vivo. He has been invited to speak at a number of national and international meetings, including the Nobel Conference on Oxygen Biology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, as well as at major meetings in Brazil, China, Japan and North America.

He is proud to be a physiologist and has worked in a number of key positions within the Physiological Society of UK and Ireland to help promote the subject. In addition to serving as a Council and Executive Member of the Society, he has also held the Chair position of the Meetings Committee, where he took a lead role in the development of the Society’s strategy for Conference organisation and delivery and in the organising of a number of International Meetings and the Publications Committee.  

He has worked for a number of Journals in Editorial positions – holding roles as Reviewing Editor and Deputy Editor-in Chief for The Journal of Physiology as well as Editorial positions for Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology and International Consulting Editor for the Journal of Applied Physiology.

He holds key roles in the administration of Education in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and in the 5-year medical (MBChB) course and the 3-year Biomedical Science programme at the University of Birmingham, working with colleagues to ensure its appropriate delivery and assessment.


Prem received a Recognising Excellence in Medical Education (REME) Award in 2015 and was selected by the Physiological Society for the prestigious Otto Hutter Prize for outstanding undergraduate physiology teaching. 

Postgraduate supervision

Prem has successfully supervised a number of Ph.D students and is interested in supervising further doctoral research students in the following broad area:

  • Hypoxia sensing and cardiorespiratory control in health and disease – to include a range of approaches from single cell to whole animal; from electrophysiology to reflex measurement. 
    Full and appropriate training will be given.

If you are interested in studying this subject area, please contact Prem on the contact details above, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email: or call +44 (0)121 414 5005.

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.   


Professor Prem Kumar’s research interests are in the area of cardiorespiratory physiology with a particular emphasis on chemotransduction mechanisms and the postnatal development of chemoreceptor sensitivity. The general approach he has adopted in the laboratory is to utilise a number of models ranging from in vivo to molecular-based from which hypotheses can be tested through various levels of organisation. 

Major research presently undertaken involves:

  1. Glucose sensing by peripheral chemoreceptors – are these receptors more than 'just' oxygen sensors? Could they play a role in sensing systemic metabolism and hence act to match ventilation to metabolism? Might this function be impaired in certain disease states eg diabetes, heart failure, COPD?
  2. Role of ATP in mediating vasomotion. Could vasomotion – or its lack – be implicated in the aetiology of pre-eclampsia? Might ATP release from blood or cells of the umbilicus / placenta be involved in its control?
  3. Catecholaminergic mediation of exercise hyperpnea. Ventilation increase in hypoxia without change in blood gas tensions. This suggests that either the chemical sensing of blood is not involved or that the carotid body sensitivity to other stimuli acts to augment discharge during exercise. This study is also examining a possible link between catecholamines and ventilatory impairment in chronic heart failure.
  4. Apnea and the control of breathing. The intermittent hypoxia of recurrent sleep apnoea appears to be able to induce a form of long-term facilitation in carotid body function (perhaps via ROS) and this augmented chemodischarge could underlie the increased sympathetic drive that leads to hypertension in these patients. This study utilises models of intermittent hypoxia.

Prem is a group leader of the Birmingham Arterial Chemoreceptor and Hypoxia Group. The research group focuses on defining the role of the carotid body chemoreceptors, in cardiovascular, respiratory and neuroendocrine physiology and pathology.  

Other activities

1998 - 2006   Editor, Journal of Physiology

1999 - 2001   Ethical Editor, Journal of Physiology

2001 - 2003   Senior Editor, Journal of Physiology

2003 - 2006   Deputy Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Physiology

2003 - 2011   Editor, Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology

2008 - 2011   International Consulting Editor, Journal of Applied Physiology

2005 - 2013   IUPS UK Executive planning Committee

2006 - 2010   Chair, Meeting Committee – The Physiological Society

2006 - 2010   Member of Executive Committee  – The Physiological Society

2006 - 2007   Council Member – The Physiological Society

2012 – 2015 Member, American Physiological Society International Committee

2014-2017    Chair, Publications Committee, Physiological Society

2013-2016    Committee Member, Annual Physiological Society Hypoxic Interest Group


Recent publications


Holmes, A, Ray, C, Thompson, E, Alshehri, Z, Coney, A & Kumar, P 2018, 'Adrenaline activation of the carotid body: key to CO2 and pH homeostasis in hypoglycaemia and potential pathological implications in cardiovascular disease', Respiratory physiology & neurobiology.

Holmes, A, Ray, C, Coney, A & Kumar, P 2018, 'Is carotid body physiological O2 sensitivity determined by a unique mitochondrial phenotype?', Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 9, 562.

Holmes, AP, Ray, CJ, Pearson, SA, Coney, AM & Kumar, P 2017, 'Ecto-5'-nucleotidase (CD73) regulates peripheral chemoreceptor activity and cardiorespiratory responses to hypoxia', The Journal of Physiology.

Thompson, EL, Ray, CJ, Holmes, AP, Pye, RL, Wyatt, CN, Coney, AM & Kumar, P 2016, 'Adrenaline release evokes hyperpnoea and an increase in ventilatory CO2 sensitivity during hypoglycaemia: a role for the carotid body', The Journal of Physiology, vol. 594, no. 15, pp. 4439-52.,

Naidu, B & Kumar, P 2016, 'Measuring changes in chest wall motion after lung resection using structured light plethysmography: a feasibility study', Interactive CardioVascular and Thoracic Surgery, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 544-547.

Mahmoud, AD, Lewis, S, Juričić, L, Udoh, U-A, Hartmann, S, Jansen, MA, Ogunbayo, OA, Puggioni, P, Holmes, AP, Kumar, P, Navarro-Dorado, J, Foretz, M, Viollet, B, Dutia, MB, Marshall, I & Evans, AM 2016, 'AMPK deficiency blocks the hypoxic ventilatory response and thus precipitates hypoventilation and apnea', American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, vol. 193, no. 9.

Elshafie, G, Acosta, J, Aliverti, A, Bradley, A, Kumar, P, Rajesh, P & Naidu, B 2016, 'Chest wall mechanics before and after diaphragm plication', Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, vol. 11, 25.

Holmes, AP, Turner, PJ, Buckler, KJ & Kumar, P 2016, 'Moderate inhibition of mitochondrial function augments carotid body hypoxic sensitivity', Pfluegers Archiv: European journal of physiology , vol. 468, no. 1, pp. 143-155.

Elshafie, G, Aliverti, A, Pippa, L, Kumar, P, Kalkat, M & Naidu, B 2015, 'Surgery corrects asynchrony of ribcage secondary to extra-thoracic tumor but leads to expiratory dysfunction during exercise', Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, vol. 10, no. 1, 187.

To, W, Kumar, P & Marshall, J 2015, 'Hypoxia is an effective stimulus for vesicular release of ATP from human umbilical vein endothelial cells', Placenta, vol. 36, no. 7, pp. 759-766.

Holmes, AP, Turner, PJ, Carter, P, Leadbeater, W, Ray, CJ, Hauton, D, Buckler, KJ & Kumar, P 2014, 'Glycogen metabolism protects against metabolic insult to preserve carotid body function during glucose deprivation', The Journal of Physiology, vol. 592, no. 20, pp. 4493-4506.

Nunes, AR, Holmes, APS, Sample, V, Kumar, P, Cann, MJ, Monteiro, EC, Zhang, J & Gauda, EB 2013, 'Bicarbonate-sensitive soluble and transmembrane adenylyl cyclases in peripheral chemoreceptors', Respiratory physiology & neurobiology, vol. 188, no. 2, pp. 83-93.

Hauton, D, Holmes, A, Ziff, O & Kumar, P 2013, 'The impact of acute and chronic catecholamines on respiratory responses to hypoxic stress in the rat', Pfluegers Archiv: European journal of physiology , vol. 465, no. 2, pp. 209-219.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Holmes, AP, Nunes, AR, Cann, MJ & Kumar, P 2015, Ecto-5'-nucleotidase, adenosine and transmembrane adenylyl cyclase signalling regulate basal carotid body chemoafferent outflow and establish the sensitivity to hypercapnia. in C Peers, P Kumar, C Wyatt, E Gauda, CA Nurse & N Prabhakar (eds), Arterial Chemoreceptors in Physiology and Pathophysiology. vol. 860, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol. 860, Springer, pp. 279-289.

Ray, CJ, Dow, B, Kumar, P & Coney, AM 2015, Mild chronic intermittent hypoxia in wistar rats evokes significant cardiovascular pathophysiology but no overt changes in carotid body-mediated respiratory responses. in C Peers, P Kumar, C Wyatt, E Gauda, CA Nurse & N Prabhakar (eds), Arterial Chemoreceptors in Physiology and Pathophysiology. vol. 860, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol. 860, Springer, pp. 245-254.

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Physiological Science