Diversified Experience

John Burns has had essentially three careers so far. He served in the U.S. Navy for 5 years then in the Navy Reserves for an additional 17 years. While serving in the Navy Reserves, he worked as a medical research scientist for almost 13 years, authoring over 25 scientific publications. John then went from the research lab to law school, earning a J.D. in addition to his PhD, and has been a practicing attorney for twenty years. Some of the highlights of his three careers include:


Law Offices of John Burns, PLLC
Sole Practitioner

In 2013, John decide to leave the corporate legal world in order to open a law practice focusing on elder law, estate planning, probate, guardianships, and veterans’ benefits, as well as the business and patent law areas where he has almost twenty years of experience.

OriGen Biomedical, Inc.
General Counsel

From 2014 to 2015, John served as the part-time General Counsel at OriGen Biomedical, a medical device company in Austin, where he was responsible for managing a patent lawsuit which has wrongly accused OriGen of infringing two patents. During his tenure at OriGen, John instituted a contracts drafting and management system and an anti-corruption compliance program, in addition to managing the company’s intellectual property portfolio and the patent litigation. He was able to help negotiate a settlement to the patent dispute then drafted the Settlement Agreement which successfully completed the primary task for which he had been hired.

Applied Biosystems / Life Technologies Corp.
Senior Patent Attorney / Director of Ambion Legal / Sr. Director of Contracts

From 2002 to 2013, John worked at Applied Biosystems, which merged with Invitrogen Corporation in 2008 to become Life Technologies. He started as a Sr. Patent Attorney where he drafted and prosecuted patent applications and managed several litigation matters in state and federal courts. In 2005, John was the lead attorney on the $273M acquisition of Ambion, Inc., an Austin-based biotechnology company, where he became the Director of the Legal team staff and budget of approximately $500,000. John was the lead attorney handling all legal matters for the 250 employee site, excluding employment and immigration law matters.

In late 2008, when Applied Biosystems merged with Invitrogen to form Life Technologies, John was promoted to Senior Director of Legal Operations for the combined entity. After the promotion, John’s responsibilities included managing a team of up to 30 employees and an annual budget of up to $5M. His team was responsible for a wide range of functions, including patent and trademark prosecution, records management, process improvement (LEAN/Six Sigma), and managing the contracts database for a 10,000 employee multinational corporation.

From 2011 to 2013 John served as Sr. Director of Contracts. In addition to leading a team of up to 15 US attorneys and contract paralegals with an annual budget of nearly $2M, John was the lead attorney for the company’s Molecular Diagnostics division.

Advanced Tissue Sciences
General Counsel / Patent Counsel

From 2001 to 2002, John served first a Patent Counsel then General Counsel of Advanced Tissue Sciences, a tissue engineering company that sold FDA approved wound care and burn care products.

Law Firms
Upon graduating from law school in 1997, John first worked at the law firm Fenwick & West as a corporate attorney. John subsequently left Fenwick & West to join the D.C. based patent firm Finnegan Henderson where he was involved in patent litigation and prosecution.

Medical Research Career

Center for Molecular Biology in Medicine
Research Health Scientist

From 1991 to 1994, John was a research virologist at the Center for Molecular Biology in Medicine, a joint Stanford Medical School- Palo Alto VA research center during which he studied the immune response to rotavirus infections. He led a team of 3-5 scientists studying various aspects of rotavirus infection from which, it was estimated at the time, at least 500,000 people died each year. John was recruited to the position by Dr. Harry Greenberg who was the head of the Gastroenterology Department at Stanford Medical School at the time and later served as Dean of Research at the Stanford Medical School.

Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation
Post-Doctoral Fellow

From 1998 to 1991, John was a post-doctoral fellow at the world-renowned Scripps Clinic for three years where he studied LCMV, a virus that attacks the central nervous system and is a model for several bioterror pathogens. LCMV is a Bio-Safety Level 3 pathogen, which means extra safety precautions are required because the Center for Disease control (CDC) has determined the virus can cause serious and potentially lethal disease via the inhalation route.

Baylor College of Medicine
Doctoral Student and Research Associate

From 1982 to 1988, John studied rotavirus in the lab of Mary K. Estes, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Science. His work led to several important scientific publications, including one describing a diagnostic assay for detecting a novel adult rotavirus infection that had caused outbreaks in adults in Asia. John earned his PhD from Baylor in Virology & Epidemiology – the study of viruses and infectious diseases.

San Diego State University
Graduate Student

From 1980 to 1982, John attended SDSU where he earned a Master of Science degree in Microbiology and did research on a microbial enzyme related to an enzyme that causes collagen disorders in humans. By studying the microbial enzyme, a constant supply of human tissue wasn’t necessary.

Military Career

In 1971, John enlisted in the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) as a Midshipman while attending Ohio State University. Upon graduating from OSU in 1975, John was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy and began his Naval career consisting of five years of active duty and 17 years in the reserves, retiring in 1997 at the rank of Commander (O-5).

USS Peoria, LST-1183 (Tank Landing Ship)
John first attended Surface Warfare Officers School then served two years on the USS Peoria (LST 1183) as the Damage Control Assistant and Repair Division Officer. He led a division of 35-50 sailors, including welders, electricians, plumbers, AC&R technicians, and machinists. John was also in charge of Peoria’s firefighting teams and was part of Peoria’s first response team for shipboard fires and emergencies. In the summer of 1976, while Peoria was deployed to the western Pacific, Super Typhoon Pamela passed over the island of Guam packing winds of 190 mph. Peoria was the first ship on the scene. Because Pamela destroyed much of Guam’s electrical system, many of Guam’s firefighters were reassigned to law enforcement duties and were backfilled by sailors in John’s division. For over a month John traveled daily around the island checking on his troops and delivering food and supplies to various fire stations in support of the recovery efforts. John was awarded the Navy’s Humanitarian Service Medal for his role in Guam’s recovery.

USS Leftwich, DD-984 (Spruance Class Destroyer)
Following his tour of duty on the Peoria, John served aboard the USS Leftwich as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. John led a division of about 25-30 sailors, including sonarmen, torpedomen, and ASROC gunner’s mates. John’s division was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ships multimillion dollar sonar system, conventional torpedo systems, and rocket-thrown torpedo system. John also served as Leftwich’s Nuclear Weapons Handling Officer.

Fleet Operational Deception Group
After five years of active duty, John joined the Navy Reserve. His first assignment was the reserve detachment supporting the Fleet Operational Deception Group. The mission of OpDec is to confuse the enemy’s targeting capability by making several ships in an aircraft carrier battle group look the carrier.

Fleet Intelligence Rapid Support Team Pacific 0894
In 1982, John transitioned to Naval Intelligence and joined FIRSTPAC 0894. John served in ‘894 for about 8 years as an intelligence analyst, production team leader, and intelligence team training officer. Because of the sensitive intelligence information needed in his work as an intelligence officer, John went through an extensive Special Background Investigation and was granted a Top Secret security clearance which he held for the rest of his naval career.

Fleet Tactical Training Group Pacific
John’s next reserve assignment was as the Intelligence Officer for the reserve unit augmenting the Fleet Tactical Training Group Pacific. The mission of Tactical Training Group was to provide tactical training to all ships and battle groups deploying to the western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf. Using computer simulators, officers and Operations Specialists from ships in the battle group were given realistic training on the current threat they would be facing while deployed, including tactics that might be deployed against them in the event of conflict.

Just prior to starting law school, John left TacTraGruPac and transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve. John retired from the Navy Reserve in 1997 at the rank of Commander (O-5) after 22 years of service.