Professor Prem Kumar

Professor Prem Kumar

Institute of Clinical Sciences
Emeritus Professor

Contact details

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

Prem Kumar is an Emeritus Professor. 

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. He is a key member of the Birmingham Arterial Chemoreceptor and Hypoxia Group.

Between 2012 and 2018 Professor Kumar was the Director of Education for the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and between 2015 and 2021 was the inaugural Director of the Institute of Clinical Sciences. Between 2019 and 2021 he led on the Academic Development Programme workstream that identified the training needs of new academics as part of the Birmingham Academic Career Framework.

Professor Kumar has served on several Journal Editorial Boards, including the Journal of Physiology, Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology and the Journal of Applied Physiology. In addition, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Physiological Society and Chair of its Publications Committee. He has also served as a member of the International Committee of the American Physiological Society. He chaired a Physiological Society Committee that produced an Undergraduate Physiology Curriculum that has been approved by the General Medical Council and also oversaw a review of the Society’s grant funding structure, establishing a number of Physiological Society career Fellowships.


  • 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 several 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 has held key roles in the administration in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, including the Director of Education for the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and the inaugural Director of the Institute of Clinical Sciences.


Professor Kumar is an enthusiastic teacher and has held 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 several UK and International Universities. Prem has long been a passionate advocate for active learning – particularly through innovative use of flipped teaching to large groups – and has received a Recognising Excellence in Medical Education (REME) Award and, in 2015, 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  


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 chemo discharge 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


Tiwana, R, Kamal, A, Singh, D, Misra, D, Usman, F, John, H, Kitas, GD, Greenfield, S, Kumar, P, Ray, C, Bosworth, A, Ahmad, A, Reehal, J & Kumar, K 2023, 'Cultural adaptation and development of an educational intervention ‘Meri Sehat, Mere Rules’ relating to cardiovascular disease associated with rheumatoid arthritis for South Asian people.', Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology. <>

Holmes, AP & Kumar, P 2023, 'Low sugar and the drive to breathe: Is insulin another adequate stimulus for the carotid body?', Experimental Physiology, vol. 108, no. 2, pp. 167-168.

MacMillan, S, Holmes, AP, Dallas, ML, Mahmoud, AD, Shipston, MJ, Peers, C, Hardie, DG, Kumar, P & Evans, AM 2022, 'LKB1 is the gatekeeper of carotid body chemosensing and the hypoxic ventilatory response', Communications Biology, vol. 5, no. 1, 642.

Alshehri, Z, Subramanian, A, Adderley, N, Gokhale, K, Karamat, MA, Ray, C, Kumar, P, Nirantharakumar, K & Tahrani, A 2022, 'Risk of incident obstructive sleep apnoea in patients with type 1 diabetes: a population-based retrospective cohort study', Diabetologia, vol. 65, no. 8, pp. 1353-1363.

Swiderska, A, Coney, AM, Alzahrani, AA, Aldossary, HS, Batis, N, Ray, CJ, Kumar, P & Holmes, AP 2021, 'Mitochondrial succinate metabolism and reactive oxygen species are important but not essential for eliciting carotid body and ventilatory responses to hypoxia in the rat', Antioxidants, vol. 10, no. 6, 840.

Alzahrani, AA, Cao, LL, Aldossary, HS, Nathanael, D, Fu, J, Ray, CJ, Brain, KL, Kumar, P, Coney, AM & Holmes, AP 2021, 'β-Adrenoceptor blockade prevents carotid body hyperactivity and elevated vascular sympathetic nerve density induced by chronic intermittent hypoxia', Pfluegers Archiv: European journal of physiology , vol. 473, no. 1, pp. 37-51.

Holmes, AP, Ray, CJ, Kumar, P & Coney, AM 2020, 'A student practical to conceptualize the importance of Poiseuille’s law and flow control in the cardiovascular system', Advances in Physiology Education.

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, AP, Ray, CJ, Pearson, SA, Coney, AM & Kumar, P 2018, 'Ecto-5′-nucleotidase (CD73) regulates peripheral chemoreceptor activity and cardiorespiratory responses to hypoxia: Ecto-5′-nucleotidase and carotid body chemosensitivity', The Journal of Physiology.,

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.


MacMillan, S, Holmes, AP, Dallas, ML, Mahmoud, AD, Shipston, MJ, Peers, C, Hardie, DG, Kumar, P & Evans, AM 2022, 'Publisher correction: LKB1 is the gatekeeper of carotid body chemosensing and the hypoxic ventilatory response (Communications biology (2022) 5 1 (642))', Communications Biology, vol. 5, no. 1, 765.

Conference contribution

Aldossary, HS, Nieves, DJ, Kavanagh, DM, Owen, D, Ray, CJ, Kumar, P, Coney, AM & Holmes, AP 2023, Analyzing Angiotensin II Receptor Type 1 Clustering in PC12 Cells in Response to Hypoxia Using Direct Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (dSTORM). in SV Conde, R Iturriaga, R del Rio, E Gauda & EC Monteiro (eds), Arterial Chemoreceptors: Mal(adaptive) Responses: O2 Dependent and Independent Mechanisms. 1 edn, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol. 1427, Springer, pp. 175-184, ISAC XXI 2022, Lisbon, Portugal, 27/06/22.


Elshafie, G, Kumar, P, Djearaman, M, Aliverti, A & Naidu, B 2017, 'The effect of benign and malignant pleural disease on chest wall mechanics', American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, vol. 196, no. 2, pp. 241-242.

Review article

Holmes, AP, Swiderska, A, Nathanael, D, Aldossary, HS, Ray, CJ, Coney, AM & Kumar, P 2022, 'Are multiple mitochondrial related signalling pathways involved in carotid body oxygen sensing?', Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 13, 908617.

Aldossary, HS, Alzahrani, AA, Nathanael, D, Alhuthail, EA, Ray, CJ, Batis, N, Kumar, P, Coney, AM & Holmes, AP 2020, 'G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling in the carotid body: roles in hypoxia and cardiovascular and respiratory disease', International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 21, no. 17, 6012.

View all publications in research portal


Physiological Science