Burke, Derek 1930

(b. 1930), Biological Scientist and Vice-Chancellor

Professor Derek Burke, born on the 13th February, 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.

Burke was chair of the UK regulatory committee on GM foods (Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes - ACNFP) for almost a decade (1988-97), during which time the first GM foods were approved for the UK. As chairman, 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.

As a member of the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of England, Burke chaired a Working Party on the social and ethical issues of cyberspace and was a member of the Archbishops’ Medical Ethics Advisory Group. Burke is also a former president of Christians in Science. He has published over 120 scientific papers on the antiviral substance interferon and on the molecular biology of animal viruses.