Prof. Derek Burke was previously Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, a post he held with distinction from 1987-1995. Prof. Burke is currently Honorary President of the British Nutrition Foundation, Honorary Fellow of St Edmunds College, Cambridge and of the Institute of Biology and Honorary Member of the Society of General Microbiology. He holds a BSc and PhD in Chemistry from Birmingham University and honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen and UEA. After research fellowships at Yale and then at the National Institute for Medical Research he lectured at the University of Aberdeen for ten years before appointment as Founding Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick in 1969. From 1982 to 1986 he was Scientific Director of Allelix Incorporated, Toronto, Canada, before returning to the UK in 1987 to become Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia.
Prof. Burke was previously Chairman of the Cambridge Templeton Consortium 2004-2009, President of the Society of General Microbiology 1987-1990, a member of the Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification 1987-1995, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes 1988-1997, a member of the Cancer Research Campaign Council 1987-1997, and Chairman of the Council of the CRC Paterson Institute for Cancer Research 1992-1997. He was Chairman of the Governing Council of the John Innes Centre 1987-1995, and a member of the Science & Engineering Board and the Technology Interaction Board of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council 1994-1997. He was a member of the Office of Science and Technology’s Technology Foresight Steering Group 1993-1995. Since retiring in 1995 he has continued as a Governor of the Institute for Food Research in Norwich and Reading 1994-2002, and was Chairman of Genome Research Limited, the body responsible for the governance of the Sanger Centre in Cambridge, from 1997-98. He was a member of the Governing Bodies of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge 1995-1999. He also carried out a number of tasks for Government Departments including the Prior Options Review for MAFF in 1995-1996 and a review of their scientific advisory system the Food Standards Agency (2009).
As Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (1988 – 1997), Prof. Burke was responsible for advising the Government on the safety of genetically modified foods and he has been very active in the subsequent debate about the safety, efficacy, and ethics of the use of genetically modified foods, and the crops from which they are derived. This has involved a very large number of speaking engagements, interviews for television and radio, and the writing of many articles. He was a member of the Societal Issues Panel of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and is currently a member of the Bioscience for Science Panel of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council which continues to address such issues on a wider horizon, for example the safety and ethical issues associated with synthetic biology. He is also currently a member of Newton’s Apple, a science think tank. Prof. Burke was a Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology 1995-2001 and a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ Working Party on the Genetic Modification of plants, which produced a Report titled ‘Genetically Modified Crops: the Ethical and Social Issues’ (1999) and ‘The use of genetically modified crops in developing countries’ (2004). He has also worked at the European level as one of the ten representatives from the EU in an EU-US Biotechnology Consultative Forum, which reported to Presidents Clinton and Prodi in 2000. He was, from 2000-2004, one of the two UK members of the High Level Life Sciences Group in Brussels, reporting directly to Commissioner Busquin, head of DG XII giving general advice to the Commissioner, especially on issues arising from novel science and technology that raise social and ethical implications for the wider public, including stem cells, and the regulation of genetically modified crops and their use in developing countries.
As a member of the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of England, Prof. Burke chaired a Working Party on the social and ethical issues of cyberspace and was a member of the Archbishops’ Medical Ethics Advisory Group. Prof. Burke is also a former president of Christians in Science.
Recent publications in science and religion
- Robin Gill & Derek Burke Strategic Church Leadership, SPCK (1996)
- Derek Burke (ed.) Cybernauts awake!, Church Press (1999)
- Derek Burke ‘Evolution and creation’, in Science Meets Faith. Theology and science in conversation, SPC K (1998)
- Derek Burke ‘Genetic engineering of food’, in Christians and bioethics, SPCK (2000)
- Derek Burke ‘BSE, MMR and GM: who’s telling the truth?’, in Can we be sure about anything? Science, faith and postmodernism, Apollos (2005).
- Derek Burke, ‘Spending a life in Science and Faith’ in Real Scientists Real Faith Monarach (2009)
Prof. Burke has published over 120 scientific papers on the antiviral substance interferon and on the molecular biology of animal viruses.