Wilkinson was born in Croydon, Surrey, UK in 1961. By the time he was 12 years old he had his own private laboratory and still does to this day. He went on to study chemistry – by – thesis at Sussex University where he undertook a three-year research programme, remarkably as an undergraduate, on the chemistry of bioluminescence under the supervision of Professor Frank McCapra.
From 1985 to 1987, Wilkinson worked for Wellcome Research Laboratories and Beecham in the area of drug discovery. He was one of the first graduate scientists to be given 20% of his work time to develop his own research ideas.
Wilkinson was awarded an Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) Instant award which was then later funded by ICI and obtained his PhD from Imperial College London (1987–1990) working with Professor William Motherwell.
Wilkinson was then awarded the prestigious SERC-NATO post-doctoral fellowship to work with the Nobel Prize–winning Professor George Olah in Los Angeles, California, (1991–1992), where he worked on, among other things, natural products chemistry, organic chemistry and Buckminsterfullerenes.
Following his post-doctoral work in the United States, Wilkinson returned to the UK and became a visiting Research Fellow in Phytochemistry at the University of Exeter in 1993, with Professor Stan Roberts, and was also a visiting lecturer at The School of Phytotherapy in East Sussex with the eminent medical herbalist and scientist, Hein Zeylstra (1928–2001). He was also an academic as senior lecturer in phytochemistry and pharmacognosy from 1994 - 2004 and evolving over that time to become an independent scientist.
In 1994, Wilkinson programme led the first herbal medicine degree course in Europe, from its beginnings in 1994 at Middlesex University. He was also appointed as a senior lecturer in phytochemistry and pharmacognosy, where he remained until 2004.
During his tenure at Middlesex University, Wilkinson founded the Herbal Research Laboratories in 1996. He became Head of the Phytochemistry Discovery Group and led a team of 10 post-doctoral scientists, research assistants and other staff members. He was also a guest lecturer at Oxford University Medical School where he taught medical undergraduates the scientific aspects of herbal medicines.
The natural product research and regulatory consultancy company, Herbal Sciences International Limited, was set up by Wilkinson in 2001. Despite leaving Middlesex University in 2004, he ran the company until 2012, while undertaking research as an independent scientist. He then established "Dr John Wilkinson Consultancy" as a business and also a vehicle for conducting and funding research as an independent scientist. His research funded by individuals, companies and through "crowd funding" focuses on several areas: Research on molecular synergy effects in botanical extracts, herbal medicines and essential oils (the latter with reference to their use in improvements and maintenance of memory functioning): Biochemical ecology - synergism in nature; New exotic fruits and their unique nutritional properties. Some of this work has been published in scientific papers, articles and conferences and also as part of national science week in the UK where Dr Wilkinson gives lectures on "Synergism in Music and Medicine". These lectures combine vivid projected images of nature, with the description of the history of medicine, phytochemistry, drug discovery, the evolution of modern botanical medicines and also includes Dr Wilkinson original research on molecular synergy combined with live performanece music (Dr Wilkinson is also a professional saxophonist).
Herbal Sciences International Limited obtained the first novel food approval in the European Union for a nutraceutical based on a safe history of use rather than conventional toxicological studies. This approval effectively broke the trade barriers and opened the European Union to new fruits, vegetables and nutraceuticals from developing countries. Dr Wilkinson continues to work in the area of regulatory approval for health claims on food labels, novel foods, herbal medicines and food supplements in the EU, the US and elsewhere.
Wilkinson is a recognised leading authority on herbal medicines, supplements, nutraceuticals, exotic fruits as novel foods, molecular synergism and related matters. He is regularly approached by TV, radio and newspapers for interviews and opinions concerning these types of food and medicinal based products. Wilkinson has published a number of articles during his academic career and continues to present at conferences and trade shows related to natural products. He has also published material for inclusion in a number of books.
Wilkinson undertakes research as an independent scientist together with his partner Kesia Trench who is a biologist, musician and yoga practitioner. They under take scientific research and write and perform music together. They also offer research experience on a voluntary basis to individuals who work with them at their laboratory and video music broadcasting studio near Slough in Berkshire and also remotely over the internet. They are avid supporters of Citizen science where the internet has opened the possibility for non or amateur scientists to conduct research on their own or in collaboration with established scientists around the World.
Wilkinson has been practising mindfulness meditation since 1987, influenced particularly Theravadan and Tibetan Buddhism. He also teaches and conducts research into meditation.
Wilkinson is a musician and composer, plays the alto and soprano saxophones, wind synthesier, is a music producer (using Ableton and Cubase) and is also an electronica artist. He specialises in ballads, jazz improvisation, electronica, funk and regularly plays at venues in the UK and abroad. He is also a recording artist and has composed and recorded songs in genres such as smooth jazz, sacred world music, chillout and other downtempo electronica formats.