Institute of Cellular Medicine

Staff Profile

Professor John Simpson

Professor of Respiratory Medicine, Newcastle University


I am part of the Respiratory and Critical Care Research Group in Newcastle. 

Our research group is principally interested in understanding innate immune dysfunction in the setting of critical illness, with a view to developing novel treatments and improving antibiotic stewardship. We are particularly interested in ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) and sepsis. Further details are found in the adjacent RESEARCH section. Selected publications are shown in the accompanying PUBLICATIONS section.

My clinical interests are in hospital-acquired infection (particularly pneumonia), pulmonary embolism and interstitial lung disease. I moved to Newcastle in 2010, having previously worked in the University of Edinburgh / MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, and in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Current roles 

Director of the NIHR Newcastle In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative (also called an NIHR MIC), one of a number of Co-operatives established in order to improve the evaluation of in vitro diagnostics (IVDs), so that good diagnostic tests are made available to patients in the NHS more quickly. The NIHR Newcastle In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative welcomes and encourages contact from industry (diagnostics companies) and from academics with an interest in diagnostics.

Previous roles

Dean of Translational Research, Newcastle University, June 2015-August 2018.

Clinical Director of R&D in Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, 2013-February 2016.


Our group’s work spans basic science, experimental medicine and randomised controlled trials (RCTs). The work focuses principally on innate immunity (with particular reference to neutrophil and monocyte function), and how this is impaired in critical illness.

We have identified biomarkers that effectively exclude ventilator-associated pneumonia in critically ill patients, and recently completed a multi-centre, randomised controlled trial (VAPRapid) to establish if these biomarkers can usefully influence antibiotic stewardship.

We have identified mechanisms by which neutrophils acquire a defect in phagocytic capacity during critical illness, and we have shown that this defect is independently associated with significantly increased risk of developing nosocomial infection in the intensive care unit (ICU). We have also described novel means by which to restore phagocytosis to normal (for example using GM-CSF), and we recently carried out an RCT (GRiP) of GM-CSF versus placebo in critically ill patients with evidence of impaired neutrophil phagocytosis. Further trials in this area are planned. 

We have a longstanding programme studying acute innate immune responses (and their resolution) in man, using carefully supervised models of inhaled and intravenous administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS).


The VAPRapid project involved collaboration with 24 UK intensive care units.

We are part of the MRC-funded SHIELD consortium, led by Prof David Dockrell in Edinburgh, which seeks to establish mechanisms of bacterial clearance by innate immune cells, and to establish ways of reducing antimicrobial resistance. The consortium brings together groups in Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Birmingham

Key collaborators outside Newcastle include:

Professor Danny McAuley, Professor Cecilia O’Kane, Dr Ronan McMullan (Queen’s University Belfast)

Dr Andrew Conway Morris (University of Cambridge)

Professor Tony Gordon (Imperial College)

Professor Andrew Wilson (University of East Anglia)

Professor Adriano Rossi, Professor David Dockrell, Dr Donald Davidson, Dr Nik Hirani, Professor Michael Eddleston (Edinburgh University)

Dr Alistair Roy (Integrated Critical Care Unit, Sunderland)

Grants as Lead Applicant (current and selected previous)


NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostic evidence Co-operative (MIC) Award 2018 

Selected Previous

Wellcome Trust/Department of Health Health Innovation Challenge Fund (HICF): Rapid detection and treatment of ventilator-associated pneumonia – towards improved antibiotic stewardship

NIHR Diagnostic Evidence Co-operative (DEC) Award 2013; 

Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust Award for Biomedical Sciences 2003
Acute infective lung injury: towards cell therapy with antiprotease-infected monocytes.

Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust
A randomised controlled trial of monocyte depletion in acute neutrophil-mediated lung injury.

MRC Developmental Clinical Studies (DCS): Does GM-CSF restore effective neutrophil function in critically ill patients?


In 2009 I received an Edinburgh University Students' Association Teaching Award.

I am currently an external examiner for medical finals at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and for a BMedSci module at the University of Edinburgh.