A full-time academic since finishing his undergraduate and postgraduate education at the University of Birmingham, Dr. Burnett worked with Dr. A. R. Bradwell at the Department of Immunology there in 1978. They established the Immunodiagnostic Research Laboratory (IDRL) which produced diagnostic antisera marketed by Unilever under contract with the University (one of the first commercial biotechnology projects in a British University). He continued his research interests which included the use of immunological methods for measuring secretory IgA and the role of proteinases and their inhibitors in the pathogenesis of chronic lung diseases and eventually left IDRL to help establish the Lung Immunobiochemical Research Laboratory. This University facility, based at Birmingham’s General Hospital, specialised in studies of the pathogenesis of chronic lung diseases and involved Dr Burnett in the development of immunology, biochemistry, and cell biology laboratories and also the use of clinical and biochemical criteria to monitor drug efficacy in clinical trials of antibiotics. Dr Burnett’s interest and expertise in the field of neutrophil biology led him to work with Professor D. Adams at the Liver Research Laboratories, University of Birmingham, before establishing Micropathology Ltd in 1995 with Professor Colin Fink.
Throughout his career, Dr. Burnett has published extensively and been successful in obtaining research grants from bodies such as the Medical Research Council, the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association and the British Lung Foundation among others. He has also supervised numerous MSc, PhD and MD students to successful completion of their projects.
He was editor of the journal Molecular Pathology published by BMJ Specialist Journals Group, which was incorporated into The Journal of Clinical Pathology, of which he was an editorial board member. He co-edited the BMA award winning book "The Science of Laboratory Diagnosis". Within Micropathology Ltd, he advises on scientific matters, particularly with regard to collaborative projects, and closely supervises the laboratory staff in all aspects of routine diagnostic and research matters.