Tributes to scientist and musician who led vaccine strategy research

Jeffrey Davies, former head of the department of virus research at the John Innes Centre has died in Norwich.

Jeffrey Davies has died in Norwich at the age of 78 - Credit: Submitted

A scientist and musician who helped boost vaccine research has died at hospital in Norwich. 

Professor Jeffrey Davies, who latterly lived in Cromer, died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on Tuesday, February 23 at the age of 78 after a short illness. 

Having moved to Norfolk in 1979 following work in the US and Netherlands, Prof Davies joined the John Innes Centre as the head of virus research. 

He directed a group of scientists in this position until he retired in 2001. 

Professor Jeffrey Davies has died aged 78 following a short illness

Professor Jeffrey Davies has died at the age of 78 following a short illness - Credit: Archant

Discoveries made under prof Davies' management are now leading to new vaccine strategies and other advances aimed to control plant, animal and human diseases, as well as boosting crop productivity.

Work on geminiviruses and RNA viruses were new projects initiated by prof Davies.

Former colleague at the John Innes Centre, Dr Simon Covey said: "Jeffery understood that teaching and supervising his students and colleagues was best achieved by encouragement through
an open and positive approach.

Jeffrey Davies has died in Norwich at the age of 78

Jeffrey Davies - Credit: Submitted

"His friendly and accessible style was greatly appreciated by the many scientists whose careers he nurtured." 

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Professor George Lomonossoff, who remains at the John Innes Centre, paid tribute to the career of his mentor.

“Under Jeff’s guidance, the department gained an international reputation at the forefront of molecular plant virology," he said. 

"The geminiviruses are now recognised as being of major agricultural and economic importance, and Jeff maintained his interest in them until his retirement, culminating in his publication of the first molecular model of the geminivirus particle structure in 2001.”

Mr Davies was able to devote more of his time to his other love, music and performance, following his retirement from scientific research. 

He was a singer, actor, music teacher, operatic and theatre director who founded his own professional opera company Opera de Camera, a small touring company. 

This developed into supporting the education of singing and performing in the East Anglian Summer Music School at the UEA (University of East Anglia), for which prof Davies was the founder and director. 

Prof Davies directed productions at the Norwich Theatre Royal, Maddermarket and Sewell Barn Theatre, in addition to opera at the Auden Theatre in Holt with the North Norfolk Chamber Opera. 

He also developed a method to help rehabilitate singers who had suffered medical conditions.

Dr Covey added: "Jeffrey was always upbeat and good company with a ready anecdote to amuse.

"He will be greatly missed by family and friends, and those colleagues and students of science and music whose lives he touched." 

Dr Covey also recalled his former colleague and friend sometimes being confused for the singer, musical director and composer Geoffrey Davidson. 

He said: "Jeff’s almost-namesake Geoff Davidson was a neighbour of mine and he knew Jeff Davies as a respected local musician but was completely unaware that he was also a scientist of international standing." 

Prof Davies completed a PhD at the University of Nottingham and he was appointed a John Innes Centre Emeritus Fellow in 2001.