Professor Dejian Zhou

Professor Dejian Zhou


Professor of Nanochemistry, Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC), Associate Editor of Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal (Elsevier, IF: 6.02), Editorial Board of Sensors (MDPI, IF: 3.28) and Advisory Board of Particle & Particle System Characterization (Wiley, IF: 3.73). He obtained a BSc in Chemistry (1990) and PhD on functional ultrathin films (1995, with Chunhui Huang) both from Peking University, China. He received the prestigious Young Chemist Award from Chinese Chemical Society (1996) and the National Excellent PhD Thesis Award (1999, Ministry of Education, China). He pursued postdoctoral research on functional ultrathin films at Cranfield University, UK (with Geoffrey Ashwell, FRSC). He moved to University of Cambridge to develop nano-enabled approaches toward the controlled assembly of functional nanostructures and smart nanoparticle sensors (2000-2007, with Sir David Klenerman FRS, Chris Abell FRS, Trevor Rayment and Lisa Hall CBE). He was appointed to a Senior Lecturer at University of Leeds (2007) and promoted to full Professor of Nanochemsitry (2018). He has published 4 invited book chapters, >140 research papers (total citation >5318; H-index: 41, Goole Scholar on 4/7/2020) including 2 research highlights on the BBC. He is a member of the interdisciplinary Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology and Bragg Centre for Materials Research at University of Leeds.

Current Group Members.

Name Time Position Qualifacation Research Project
Dr Uchangi S Akshatch 7/2018- Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow PhD in Life Science-Nanotechnology, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Karnataka, India. Glycan-PMN assemblies for probing DC-SIGN/R-glycan binding (with WB Turnbull)
Dr Darshita Budhadev 11/2018- Postdoctoral Researcher PhD in Synthetic Carbohydrate Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Kolkata, India Glycan-PMN probes for lectin-glycan interactions (with WB Turnbull and Y Guo)
Dr Elizabeth Kalverda 8/2018- Postdoctoral Researcher PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, UK Molecular & structural mechanisms of viral lectin receptors DC-SIGN/R (with Y Guo and WB Turnbull)
Rahman Basaran 3/2018- PhD student MSc in Pharmaceutical Toxicology, Ankara Univeristy, Turkey Glycan-PMNs for probing DC-SIGN/R-glycan binding & blocking virus infection (co-supervised with Y Guo)
James Hooper 10/2018- PhD student MChem in Chemistry, University of Leeds, UK Probing DC-SIGN/R-glycan binding and dendritic cell immune regulation via glycan-PMNs. (co-supervised with Y Guo)
Zeyang Pang 10/2018- PhD student BSc in Chemical Engineering, Tianjing University, China  Multifunctional nano-antibiotics against multidrug resistant bacteria (co-supervised with X Jiang, Southern University of Science & Technology, China)
Harry Wilders 10/2019- MChem student   Glycan-nanoparticle assemblies for mimicking virus-dendritic cell interactions
Brandon Frost 10/2019- MChem student   Multifunctional glycan-gold nanorod probes for DC-SIGN/R-glycan interaction
Chris Worsnop 10/2019- MChem student   Probing multivalent lectin-glycan affinity enhancing mechanism via engineered DC-SIGN and glycan-QD

Past PhD Students & Immediate Post-graduation Destination.

Name Time Immediate Position Immediate Destination
Dr Emma Poole 10/2015-4/2019 Postdoctoral Researcher University of Manchester, Manchester, U.K.
Dr Lorico Lapitan, Jr. 10/2014-7/2018 Lecturer University of Santo Tomas, Philippines.
Dr Weili Wang 10/2012-9/2016 Postdoctoral Researcher Soochow University, Suzhou, China.
Dr Yifei Kong 10/2011-9/2015 Postdoctoral Researcher Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, U.S.A.
Dr Haiyan Zhang 6/2009-11/2013 Lecturer Wuhan Light Industry University, Wuhan, China.
Dr Yue Zhang 10/2009-7/2013 Lecturer Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Dr Lei Song 10/2009-6/2013 Postdoctoral Researcher University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K..

He welcomes inquires from potential PhD students interested in developing novel nano-enabled approaches to address important, unmet biological and biomedical challenges. The University of Leeds offers several scholarship schemes, e.g. Leeds-China Scholarship Council scholarships; Leeds Doctoral Scholarships, endowed scholarships and the BBSRC funded White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP Scholarship. He also actively supports and hosts qualified candidates to apply for the prestigious external research fellowships, e.g. Newton, Marie Curie, and RCUK fellowships.

Research interests

We are developing a novel polyvalent multifunctional nanoparticle (PMN) strategy to address some important biomedical challenges by exploiting multivalency and nanomaterials.

Glycan-PMN Probes: Multivalent sugar binding protein (lectin)-carbohydrate interactions are central to viral/bacterial infection and immune regulation, but the underpinning mechanisms remain poorly understood due to challenges in solving structures of some important membrane lectins. We have pioneered a glycan-PMN approach to fully exploit multivalency (greatly enhanced binding affinity and specificity) and nanoparticles (unique size-dependent optical and magnetic properties) to address this challenge. We have developed compact polvalent glycan-nanoparticles as multifunctional structural probes for tetrameric viral lectin receptors (DC-SIGN and DC-SIGNR) which play a key role in facilitating the HIV/Ebola viral infection and regulating immune response. We demonstrate that the glycan-PMN not only can ratiometrically quantify their DC-SIGN/R binding affinity via FRET, but also dissect their exact binding modes and potently block DC-SIGN medicated pseudo-Ebola virus infection of host cells. Some initial results were published in leading journals, e.g. Angew. Chem. as a back cover and J. Am. Chem. Soc., and highlighted by University press release.[1-4] We have been awarded a major BBSRC grant to develop novel glycan-PMNs for probing structural and molecular mechanisms of multivalent lectin-glycan interaction and blocking viral infection (with Prof. WB Turnbull, Chemistry; Dr Y Guo, Food Science; Dr N Hondow, Chemical & Process Engineering; and Prof. S Pöhlmann, German Primate Centre, Germany). We are also seek to develop glycan-PMNs based tools to elucidate dendritic cell immune regulation mechanisms and develop novel immunotherapeutic strategies against cancer, allergy, and arthritis (with Dr Y Guo, Food Science; with Prof. WB Turnbull, Chemistry; Dr M Wittmann, Medcine; Prof. D McGonagle, Medicine; and Prof. X Wang, South Dakota State University, USA).

Selected Publications: [1] Guo et al, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 4738; [2] J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 11833; [3] Methods Enzymology, 2018, 598, 71. [4] Hooper et al. ACS Symposium Series, 2020, 1346, 47.

PMN Sensors: The clinical "gold standard” assay typically detect target proteins down to the pM level (10-12 M), limiting its capability in early disease diagnosis where biomarker concentrations can be 3 orders of magnitude lower. By harnessing advantageous properties of nanomaterials and aptamers and/or Affimers, and also developing novel powerful amplifcation strategies, we are developing ultrasensitive PMN sensors that can specifically detect target disease biomarkers down to the atto-molar (10-18 M) regime, making it powerful tools for earlier detection and diagnosis of deadly diseases such as cancer (with Prof. P Quirke, Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology; Dr DT Tomlinson, Faculty of Biological Sciences).

Selected Publications: [1] Garcia et al., Nanoscale, 2011, 3, 3721. [2] H. Zhang et al. Chem. Commun. 2012, 48, 5097; Nanoscale 2013, 5, 10307. [3] Y. Zhang et al., Nanoscale, 2013, 5, 5027; Anal. Chem. 2013, 84, 6595. [4] Wang et al., ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2017, 9, 15232. [5] Lapitan et al., Nanoscale 2019, 11, 1195; Methods Enzymol. 2020, 630, 453.

PMN Cancer Nanomedicine: Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 9.6 million deaths and >US$1.16 trillion annual economic cost. The current treatments are ineffective in treating metastatic and multidrug resistance cancers. To address this challenge, we are developing PMN nanomedicine to exploit the rapid pH-dependent conformational changes of 4-stranded DNA structure “i-motif” to achieve intracellular pH triggered drug release.[1-4]  We are exploiting resmultivalent binding between PMN surface targeting ligands and cancer cell over-expressed receptors and tumour’s own pathological conditions (e.g. enhanced permeation and retention, EPR) effect to improve targeted tumour accumulation.[5] Meanwhile, we are integrating the unique size-/shape- dependent physical-/chemical- properties of nanoparticles to offer stimuli-response release, imaging, diagnostic, and therapeutic functions.[6,7] We are further incorporating chemotherapeutic and immune modulating functions to offer more effective, synergistic multimodal treatment to overcome cancer multidrug resistance at the cellular and pre-clinical levels (with Dr R Chen, Imperial College London; Dr J Mclaughlan, School of Electric & Electronic Engineering, Leeds; Prof. X Jiang, Southern University of Science and Technology, China)

Selected Publications: [1] Liu et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2006, 128, 2067; [2] Cheng et al. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2009, 48, 7660; [3] Song et al. Adv. Healthcare Mater. 2013, 2, 275; [4] Song et al., ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2015, 7, 18707; [5] Lv et al. Adv. Healthcare Mater. 2015, 4, 1496; [6] Zhang et al., J. Controlled Release, 2016, 232, 9; [7] Kong et al., Chem. Mater. 2016, 28, 3041.

PMN Antibiotics: The emergence of resistant bacteria (e.g. MSRA, VRE) has created a major global health problem. Previously, in collaboration with Prof. RA McKendry (University College London) we have developed a novel microcantalever array based rapid screening method for vancomycin-muocpetide interactions (see Nature Nanotech. 2008 and BBC highlight). We are developing novel PMN antibiotics to enhance the potency of existing antibiotics by exploiting multivalency and harnessing intrinsic anti-bacterial properties of nanomaterials. As a result, the PMN antibiotics can offer a safer, faster, and more economical alternative to traditional medicinal chemistry approaches to combat the bacterial antibiotic resistance challenge (with Prof. A O’Neil, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Leeds and Prof. X Jing, Southern University of Science and Technology, China).

Selected Publications: [1] Ndieyira et al., Nature Nanotech., 2018, 3, 691.


  • BSc in Chemistry (UK 1st class equivalent), 1990
  • PhD in Inorganic Chemistry, 1995

Professional memberships

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry (2016-)
  • Member, American Chemical Society (2005-)
  • Member, British Society of Nanomedicine (2013-)
  • Member, British Biophysical Society (2016-)

Student education

I am lecturing several undergraduate and postgraduate modules related to materials, biomedical nanomaterials and bio-inorganic chemsitry for chemistry and materials students. I am also invloved in lecturing postgraduate modules for biological science, chemical engineering and materials students. I am a personal tutor for chemistry level 1 to level 5 students.

Research groups and institutes

  • Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>
    <li><a href="//">Polyvalent Multifunctional Nanoparticles to Address Resistance Bacteria</a></li> <li><a href="//">Probing Viral Receptor-Sugar Interactions using Multifunctional Glycan-Nanoparticle</a></li>