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Professor John Sumpter

Professor John Sumpter

Research area(s)

Research Activities:

When I came to Brunel University in 1978, the University had a very low research profile; only a few staff were active in research. Over the next twenty years, I built up a large research group, consisting of twenty staff at its peak.

My research can be broken down into two related, though somewhat separate, fields. One, which I began with my PhD, and have continued ever since, is concerned with the hormonal control of fish reproduction (and, to a lesser extent, stress). The other is concerned with endocrine disruption; it is in this area that I now concentrate most of my efforts, and for which I have an international reputation.

Membership of Learned Societies

  • Society for Experimental Biology
  • The Fisheries Society of the British Isles
  • European Society for Comparative Endocrinology
  • Society for the Study of Fertility
  • Society for Endocrinology
  • Society for the Study of Reproduction

I have delivered talks at meetings organised by all of these societies, and at many other national and international meetings

Major Research Grants Awarded

  • Royal Society: Scientific investigation grant of £4,652 for the purchase of an automatic gamma-counter.
  • SERC: £30,430 from 1 October 1980 until 30 September 1983 for a study entitled ‘The characterization and physiological roles of peptides derived from pro-opiomelanocortin in fishes’ (in collaboration with Dr P J Lowry, St Bartholomew’s Hospital).
  • MAFF: £18,050 from 1 January 1981 until 31 March 1984 for a study entitled ‘The purification, characterization and physiological roles of salmonid gonadotrophin.’
  • SERC: £39,340 from 1 October 1984 until 31 September 1987 for a study entitled ‘Ovarian uptake of vitellogenin in the Rainbow Trout’ in collaboration with Dr N R Bromage, University of Aston).
  • Royal Society: £8,520 from 1 May 1984 until 31 December 1984 from the Anglo-Canadian exchange scheme to enable me to spend nine months on sabbatical leave in the laboratory of Dr E M Donaldson in Vancouver.
  • SERC: £18,060 from 1 January 1987 to 31 December 1987 for a study entitled ‘Hormonal control of growth and sea-water adaptation in rainbow trout’ (in collaboration with Dr Vic Bye, MAFF, Lowestoft, though he was not formally named on the grant).
  • MAFF: £37,000 from 1 December 1986 to 31 March 1987 for a study entitled “The effects of environmental stress on the physiology of growth in trout”. (Awarded jointly to Dr A D Pickering, Freshwater Biological Association, Windermere, and myself).
  • Department of the £83,142 from 1 January 1988 to 30 June 1990 for a study entitled “Effects of Environment: trace organics on coarse fish.
  • MAFF: £23,508 from 1 January 1989 to 31 December 1989 for a study entitled “The induction and metabolic demands of vitellogenin synthesis in carp”.
  • EC: £60,000 from 1 June 1990 to 31 May 1992 from the Fisheries Directorate to support a French Post-doctoral Fellow.
  • Department of the £146,025 from 1 October 1991 to 31 March 1995 for a study entitled “Effects of Environment: trace organics on coarse fish: Phase 2”.
  • AFRC: £98,000 from 1 September 1991 to 31 August 1994 for a study entitled "Determination of the physiological function, or functions, of somatolactin, a new member of the growth hormone/prolactin family in trout”.
  • MAFF: £65,597 from 1 June 1992 to 31 May 1995 for a field study of the effects of oestrogens in effluent on fish.
  • EC: £130,000 from 1 November 1993 to 31 October 1996 for a study entitled “Egg quality determinants of teleost fish”.
  • NRA: £142,916 from 1 December 1993 to 31 March 1997 for a study entitled “Identification of estrogenic substances in STW effluent”.
  • NERC: £138,418 from 1 March 1994 to 28 February 1997 for a study entitled “Effects of alkylphenols and related chemicals on gonad development, sex determination, and gamete quality of trout”.
  • BBSRC: £57,540 from 1 September 1994 to 31 August 1995 for a study entitled “Studies of somatolactin in fish and higher vertebrates”.
  • BBSRC: £127,892 from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1997 for a study entitled “Molecular characterization of the vitellogenin receptor and the dynamics of its expression”, (with Dr C R Tyler).
  • ECETOC: £165,000 from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 1998 for studies on the oestrogenic properties of chemicals.
  • European Union: 97,622 ECU for a study from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1996 for a study entitled “Molecular characterization of the vitellogenin receptor and control of its expression”.
  • NERC: £250,000 from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 2000 for a study entitled “Oestrogenic chemicals in the aquatic environment and their effects on fish”.
  • NERC: £75,283 from 1 October 1995 to 30 September 1997 for a study entitled “Oestrogenic activity of phthalates”.
  • Brunel University: £200,000 from 1 September 1995 to 31 August 2000, as matching funds to complement the NERC grant of £250,000 (see above).
  • European Union: 90,000 ECU from 1 April 1996 to 31 March 1998 for a study entitled “Male reproductive health and environmental chemicals” (part of a large project).
  • European Union: 105,000 ECU from 1 April 1996 to 31 March 1999, for a study entitled “Environmental halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons and estrogens: mechanism of action, interactions, and test-system development” (part of a large project).
  • Wellcome Trust: £58,038 from 1 September 1996 to 31 August 1999 for a study entitled “Effects of exposure to oestrogenic xenobiotics during early development on the expression of genes controlling sexual development” (with Drs Tyler and Rand-Weaver).
  • Environment Agency: £84,000 from 1 October 1996 to 30 September 1999 for the support of two studentships in the area of endocrine disruption (with Dr Tyler)
  • An industrial Company: £79,400 from 1 August 1996 to 31 July 1998 for a study of some industrial chemicals.
  • European Union £78,540 from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 1999 for a study entitled 'Do environmental estrogens (EEs) disrupt the neuro-endocrine regulation of reproduction in fish?'
  • Dept of Environment: £60,000 from 1 February 1998 to 31 January 2000 for a study entitled Transport and the "Endocrine disruption in the gudgeon". (with Dr Tyler). Regions
  • NERC: £186,145 from 1 July 1998 to 30 June 2001 for a study entitled "Reproductive capabilities of wild intersex fish" (with Dr C Tyler).
  • HEFCE: £51,000 (plus matching funds from Brunel University) to refurbish a laboratory.
  • Brunel University: £68,000 to establish a Fish Ecotoxicology Unit
  • BBSRC: £148,752 from 1 June 1998 to 31 May 2001 for a study entitled "Molecular characterization and developmental expression of enzymes mediating yolk processing (with Dr C Tyler).
  • CEFIC (the European Chemicals Industries £122,195 from 1 September 1998 to 31 August 2000 for a study entitled ") An ecological study to assess Bisphenol-A as an environmental oestrogen."
  • EMSG (an industry consortium £185,906 from 1 October 1998 to 30 September 2003 for a study) “Joint programme on endocrine disruptors in the aquatic environment”.
  • An industrial Company: £39,700 for one year from 16 November 1998 for a study entitled “Endocrine activity of landfill leachate”.
  • European Union: £120,000 from 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2001 for a study entitled “Community Programme of research on environmental hormones and endocrine disruptors” (COMPREHEND).
  • DETR: £132,048 from 1.8.2001-31.2.2004 for a study entitled “A search for evidence of endocrine disruption in top predator fish”.
  • European Union: £372,000 (538,903 Euros) from 1.12.01 to 30.11.04, for a study entitled “Analyzing combination effects of oestrogenic chemicals. This is part of a larger project (ACE), total budget 2.4 million Euros, which I co-ordinate.
  • European Union: £208,000 (322,960 Euros) from 1.12.02 to 30.11.06 for a study entitled “Endocrine Disruptors: Exploring novel endpoints, exposure, low dose and mixture effects in human, aquatic wildlife and laboratory animals”. This was part of a much larger project (EDEN), which has a total budget of 10.8 million Euros.
  • AstraZeneca/Pfizer: £92,610 from 1.3.04 to 28.2.06 for a study entitled “Physiological Responses of Fish to Pharmaceuticals”.
  • European Union: About £180,000 (290,000 Euros) from 1.9.04 to 31.8.07 for a study entitled “Environmental Risk Assessment of Pharmaceuticals”. This was part of a large project (ERAPharm).
  • NERC: £237,517 from 1.1.06 to 31.12.09 for a study entitled “Confounding Factors in the Risk Assessment of mixtures of estrogenic chemicals”
  • DEFRA: £323,400 from 1.1.06 to 31.12.08 for a study entitled “Influence of endocrine disruption on reproduction in roach”.
  • AstraZeneca: £50,540 from 1.3.06 to 28.2.07 for a continuation of the study “Physiological Responses of Fish to Pharmaceuticals”.
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK): £100,000 from 1.5.07 to 30.4.2010 for a project entitled “Research on pharmaceuticals in the environment”
  • DEFRA: £230,000 from 1.11.08 to 31.10.10 for a study entitled “Intelligent Ecotoxicology: progestogens as a test case”.
  • CEFAS: £64,000 from 1/1/09 to 31/12/09 for a study entitled “Validating a sexual development test using the 3-spined stickleback”.

Total value of Grants raised while at Brunel: approximately £5million.

Collaboration with Industry

Much of the research done by the Ecotoxicology Research Group is of considerable interest and relevance to many sectors of industry. This is particularly true of our work on persistent man-made chemicals in the environment which have the ability to mimic endogenous hormones, and thus (potentially) disrupt endocrine-mediated physiological processes, such as reproduction.

Some of the Group’s work is funded by industry, both via collective organisations such as the European Centre for the Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC) and by industrial companies (including a number of the world’s largest multinationals). We also have a major ongoing collaboration with AstraZeneca, which links two of their main laboratories (the Environment Laboratory in Brixham and the Central Toxicology Laboratory at Alderley Edge) with my Ecotoxicology Research Group at Brunel.

Research supervision

My first PhD student was awarded her degree in 1983. Since then, I have successfully supervised a further 25 full-time PhD students, plus two external PhD students, and 3 M.Phil. students. Presently, I am supervising 1 M.Phil. student, 2 PhD students and 4 post-doctoral fellows.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Postgraduate Researchers

  • Ms Katie Aoki
  • Mr Luigi Margiotta-Casaluci
  • Mr Kugathas Subramaniam