Simon Fishel

Simon Fishel (born 29 July 1953) is an English physiologist, biochemist and pioneering in vitro fertilisation (IVF) specialist.

Simon Fishel
Simon Brian Fishel

(1953-07-29)29 July 1953
Liverpool, England
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Known forPioneer of in-vitro fertilisation
AwardsHonorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University
Scientific career
FieldsIn-vitro fertilisation, human reproduction, fertility and reproductive physiology
InstitutionsUniversity of Salford
University of Cambridge
Churchill College, Cambridge
CARE Fertility Group

Fishel joined Robert Edwards in 1975[1] and eventually worked alongside Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, the duo that successfully pioneered conception through IVF, leading to the birth of Louise Brown on 25 July 1978.[2]

Early life and educationEdit

Simon Brian Fishel was born to a Jewish family in Liverpool and grew up close to Calderstones Park.[3] His father, Joseph, was a tailor and his mother, Jane, was one of 12 siblings from a family of Eastern European refugees.[4]

Fishel was educated at King David High School, Liverpool, where he became Head Boy.[5]

After securing A-Levels, Fishel initially taught at a school in Speke, on the outskirts of Liverpool.[6] He then studied Physiology and Biochemistry at the University of Salford, graduating in 1975 with double first-class BSc Honours.[7]

Fishel moved to the University of Cambridge after being appointed to a PhD position in virology, but soon decided that a career studying viruses was not for him.[8] He then met future Nobel Prize-winner Robert Edwards, under whose supervision he would gain a PhD and find a field to which he would commit his life's work.[9][10]

In 1978, Fishel was appointed as a Don at Churchill College, Cambridge and was also awarded the Beit Memorial Foundation Fellowship.[11]


At Cambridge, Fishel worked with Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe for a number of years before the birth of the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in Oldham in 1978.[12] This success made medical history, establishing in vitro fertilisation as a new treatment option that could help infertile couples have children.

While continuing his work at Cambridge, Fishel was appointed as Deputy Scientific Director at the world's first IVF clinic, Bourn Hall, joining Scientific Director Edwards, Medical Director Steptoe and Deputy Medical Director John Webster in 1980.[13][14][15]

During these controversial early years of IVF, Fishel and his colleagues received extensive opposition from critics both outside of and within the medical and scientific communities, including a civil writ for murder.[16] Fishel has since stated that "the whole establishment was outraged" by their early work and that people thought that he was "potentially a mad scientist".[17]

In 1981, Fishel, Robert Edwards and other colleagues at Bourn Hall organised the first international IVF conference, which was attended by pioneering clinicians and scientists from around the world. [18][19][20] Shortly after this, Fishel's colleague Robert Edwards would co-found the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology and establish the journal Human Reproduction to enable greater reporting of developments and breakthroughs in the field.[21][22][23]

Fishel's work has included numerous breakthroughs. One of his earliest contributions was to move away from test tubes (hence the term 'test-tube baby') and towards the use of petri dishes with culture medium overlaid with paraffin oil in the practice of clinical embryology, a step which made it more practical when IVF was eventually used to retrieve multiple eggs during ovarian stimulation for the purpose of producing multiple follicles.[24]

Fishel demonstrated for the first time that human embryos secrete the pregnancy hormone hCG in a 1984 publication with Edwards and Chris Evans in Science that has been cited 196 times and identified by Outi Hovatta as the first description of the potential of IVF and stem cell technology in terms of medicinal benefit.[25][26] He also demonstrated the need to permanently immobilise the sperm tail for successful intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).[27]

In the 1980s, Fishel sought out Falmouth-based micro-electronics firm Research Instruments to help him develop tools for the earliest beginnings of sperm microinjection.[28] However, British regulators would not grant Fishel a licence for a pilot scheme, meaning he had to pioneer the technique, known as sub-zonal insemination (SUZI), in Italy.[29]

In Rome, Fishel and his team reported the first birth from SUZI in 1990,[30] which was televised by Italian television station Rai Uno,[31] and described a clinical pregnancy rate of 15 per cent from 225 SUZI cycles a year later.[32] As the first micro-insemination technique for treating male infertility,[33] SUZI was a novel technology that allowed men with poor semen parameters and no other chance of achieving fertilisation to father their own genetic children.[34] It was licensed as a technique in Britain in 1991, with the first SUZI birth in the UK taking place in September 1992 at the Park Hospital in Nottingham.[35]

Fishel and colleagues went on to offer direct injection of sperm into the cytoplasm of the oocyte, or ‘DISCO’, as an alternative treatment for patients for whom SUZI had failed.[36] These techniques would eventually be developed into intracytoplasmic sperm injection,[37] while Research Instruments would go on to provide IVF equipment and technology to clinics around the world.[38]

Fishel introduced embryo vitrification to the UK in 1991, with the first baby to be born in the country from this technique being delivered in October 1992.[39] However, this procedure was then initially banned by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), a decision later criticised by Fishel when he gave a supplementary memorandum in parliament in 1997 as part of the Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill.[40]

Fishel has published more than 200 papers, as well as a number of books, including the 1986 bestseller In Vitro Fertilisation: Past Present and Future.[41] In 1987, he was part of the first team invited by the World Health Organization to introduce IVF to mainland China.[42]

Together with Steven D. Fleming, in 1992 Fishel established the world's first master's degree courses in assisted reproduction technology at the University of Nottingham, where he had already opened a fertility service.[43][44]

Fishel co-founded independent specialist CARE Fertility in 1997 to provide fertility services to private and NHS patients.[45]

Fishel has received honorary awards from countries such as Japan, South Africa, Austria and Italy, and has advised numerous international governments, as well as the Vatican.[46]

In 2009, he received an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University for his "outstanding contributions to the field of fertility treatment, including embryology and IVF".[47]

Fishel was named at number ten in the '100 hottest health gurus' by women's health and wellbeing magazine Top Santé in its September 2013 issue, selected due to his co-creation of the time-lapse embryo imaging process CAREmaps, a development Fishel himself called the most exciting and significant since he began his career.[48][49]

In a November 2013 issue of the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online, Fishel called for the NHS to permit its IVF patients to take part in privately funded trials of new additional techniques, adding that the current position was "preventing progress".[50]

Personal lifeEdit

Fishel lives in Nottingham and has four children and one grandchild. His second-eldest child is the musician, producer and record label owner Matt Fishel.

In 1993, Fishel was nominated by readers of the Liverpool Echo as one of Merseyside's 'top 100 living legends'.[51]

On 17 October 2000, Fishel was on board the train involved in the Hatfield rail crash. He escaped with minor injuries and helped assist other passengers at the scene before emergency services arrived.[52]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "What I've learnt: Dr Simon Fishel". British Airways Business Life. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  2. ^ "Five million IVF babies since 1978". Daily Telegraph, London. 1 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2 July 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  3. ^ "New hope from the father of 4,000 babies". Liverpool Daily Post. 13 November 1997.
  4. ^ "Birth control". The Big Issue. 29 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Annual Prize Giving". King David High School website. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  6. ^ "What I've learnt: Dr Simon Fishel". British Airways Business Life. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  7. ^ "Fishel, Simon Brian". The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. 1 January 2011. ISBN 9780230304666. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  8. ^ "He's Dr Dad, father to 3,000". Liverpool Daily Post. 5 April 1994.
  9. ^ "He's Dr Dad, father to 3,000". Liverpool Daily Post. 5 April 1994.
  10. ^ "The World Egg Bank Management Team: Dr. Simon Fishel". The World Egg Bank. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  11. ^ "Fishel-Simon". IVF Worldwide. 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  12. ^ "Professor Simon Fishel". CARE Fertility. 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  13. ^ "Pushing the envelope on fertility care". Irish Health. 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  14. ^ "Obituary: Robert Edwards, test-tube baby pioneer". BBC News online. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  15. ^ David K Gardner; Ariel Weissman; Colin M Howles; Zeev Shoham. Textbook of Assisted Reproductive Techniques: Laboratory and Clinical Perspectives. p. 12.
  16. ^ "Celebration of 25 years of IVF". Nottingham Post. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  17. ^ "Birth control". The Big Issue. 29 July 2013.
  18. ^ "A child against all odds". Transworld Publishers, London. 2006. ISBN 9781446437568. Retrieved 2014-09-16.
  19. ^ "Principles and practice of fertility preservation". Cambridge University Press. 2011. ISBN 9781139496124. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  20. ^ "40 years of IVF commemorative programme" (PDF). Christ's College, Cambridge. 2009. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  21. ^ "The 'Father of IVF' and a Founding Father of ESHRE". Human Reproduction, Volume 25, Issue 12, pp 2933 - 2935. 2010. Archived from the original on 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  22. ^ "ESHRE: The first 21 years" (PDF). ESHRE. 2006. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  23. ^ "In Appreciation of Professor R. G. Edwards, Founding Editor of the Human Reproduction Journals". Molecular Human Reproduction, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp3. 2000. Archived from the original on 2016-02-13. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  24. ^ "Essentials of fertilisation, S.B. Fishel, R.G. Edwards, p157 - 179". Human Conception In Vitro - Academic Press. 1982.
  25. ^ Fishel, S. B.; Edwards, R. G.; Evans, C. J. (24 February 1984). "Human chorionic gonadotropin secreted by preimplantation embryos cultured in vitro". Science. Science, vol 223 no. 4638, pp 816 - 818. 223 (4638): 816–818. doi:10.1126/science.6546453. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  26. ^ "A culture system using human foreskin fibroblasts as feeder cells allows production of human embryonic stem cells" (PDF). Human Reproduction, vol 18 no. 7, pp 1404 - 1409. 2003. Retrieved 2014-08-22.[dead link]
  27. ^ Chen, S. U.; Ho, H. N.; Chen, H. F.; Huang, S. C.; Lee, T. Y.; Yang, Y. S. (1996). "Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) for severe semen abnormalities: dissecting the tail of spermatozoa at the tip". Human Reproduction. 11 (12): 2640–2644. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.humrep.a019185. PMID 9021366.
  28. ^ "Micromanipulation in Assisted Conception". Cambridge University Press. 2003. ISBN 9780521648479. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  29. ^ "The IVF Revolution". Vermilion, London. 1998. ISBN 1448177731. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  30. ^ "25 years of IVF in Nottingham". Nottingham Post. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  31. ^ "The Baby Makers". Channel 4 Books. 1999.
  32. ^ "ESHRE: The first 21 years" (PDF). ESHRE. 2006. Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  33. ^ "Assisted reproduction technology in Australia and New Zealand 2006". Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. September 2008. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  34. ^ "Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility: Integrating Modern Clinical and Laboratory Practice, p601". Springer, New York. 2010. ISBN 9781441914361. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  35. ^ "The Baby Makers". Channel 4 Books. 1999.
  36. ^ "Micro-assisted fertilization in patients who have failed subzonal insemination". Human Reproduction, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 501 - 505. 21 July 2009. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  37. ^ "The IVF revolution". Vermilion, London. 1998. ISBN 1448177731. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  38. ^ "IVF firm wins overseas deals". The West Briton. 21 July 2009. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  39. ^ "Couple's fast-freeze IVF baby". BBC News Online. 12 August 2008. Retrieved 2014-09-02.
  40. ^ "Supplementary Memorandum by Professor Simon Fishel (Ev 85)". Parliament Publications (UK). 2007. Retrieved 2014-09-02.
  41. ^ "Fishel-Simon". IVF Worldwide. 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  42. ^ "Fishel-Simon". IVF Worldwide. 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  43. ^ "Micromanipulation in Assisted Conception" (PDF). Cambridge University Press. 2003. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  44. ^ "Celebrating 25 years of miracle babies". Nottingham Post. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  45. ^ "About CARE Fertility". CARE Fertility. 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  46. ^ "Dr Simon Fishel (Associate Member)". Chana. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  47. ^ "Fishel's varsity honour". Jewish Telegraph. 24 July 2009.
  48. ^ "100 Hottest Health Gurus". Top Santé magazine. September 2013.
  49. ^ "Birth control". The Big Issue. 29 July 2013.
  50. ^ "Evidence-based medicine and the role of the National Health Service in assisted reproduction". Reproductive BioMedicine Online, volume 27, issue 5, pp 568 - 569. November 2013. Retrieved 2014-09-16.
  51. ^ "Your choices for Mersey Hall of Fame". Liverpool Echo. 2 October 1993.
  52. ^ "Doctor was on hand to help injured". The Times, London. 18 October 2000.

External linksEdit

  • CARE Fertility website [1]