He studied biological chemistry and molecular biology at Harvard for three years, graduating in 1972 in the top 1% of his class with a first class degree. During this time, he worked with Doctor F.R. Minchin on several published papers which revolutionised the accepted understanding of molecular biology.
In 1975, Copley had a falling out with the FDA following their injunction on the development of a drug that had the potential to rejuvenate nervous cells in mammals, and fought a court order that imposed a ban on the drug's research and development, only to lose out and have to abandon the project.
Beginning in 1976, he lectured and held residency at Johns Hopkins. He also carried out research at Cambridge University. Before going to the United Kingdom to set up the Pharm, he was Harvard professor of molecular pharmacology.