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: 4.72) and Advisory Board Member of Particle & Particle System Characterization (an Advance Materials family journal, Wiley, IF: 4.19). He is pursuing a powerful polyvalent multifunctional nanoparticle (PMN) strategy to address some important biological and biomedical challenges. He obtained his BSc in Chemistry (1990) and PhD in Inorganic Chemistry (on organised functional ultrathin films, 1995, with Prof. Chunhui Huang, CAS Academician) both from Peking University, China. He received the Young Chemist Award from Chinese Chemical Society (1996) and the National Excellent PhD Thesis Award (1999, Ministry of Education, China). He pursued further postdoctoral research on functional ultrathin films at Cranfield University, UK (with Prof. Geoffrey Ashwell, FRSC). He became interested in nanochemistry and moved to University of Cambridge to develop novel approaches for the controlled assembly and manipulation of functional nanostructures on surfaces and development of smart nanoparticle sensors (2000-2007, with Prof. Sir David Klenerman FRS, Prof. Chris Abell FRS, and Prof. Trevor Rayment and Prof. Lisa Hall). He joined University of Leeds as Senior Lecturer in 2007 and was promoted to full Professor of Nanochemsitry in 2018. He has published some 136 research papers, 3 book chapters (total citation >5140; H-index: 40, Goole Scholar on 10/1/2020) and two research highlights on the BBC. He is a member of cross-faculty interdisplinary research centres, Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology and Bragg Centre for Materials Research at University of Leeds.

Current Group Members. Dr Uchangi S Akshatch (Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Fellow, 7/2018-; PhD in Life Science-Nanotechnology from Central Food Technological Research Institute, Karnataka, India); Dr Darshita Budhadev (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 11/2018-, PhD in Synthetic Carbohydrate Chemistry from Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Kolkata, India); Dr Elizabeth Kalverda (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 8/2018-, PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular biology from University of Leeds, UK); Rahman Basaran (PhD Student, 3/2018-, MSc in Pharmaceutical Toxicology from Ankara Univeristy, Turkey); Zeyang Pang (PhD Student, 10/2018-, BSc in Chemical Engineering from Tianjing University, China; jointly supervised with Prof. Xingyu Jiang, Southern University of Science and Technology, China); James Hooper (PhD Student, 10/2018-, Master in Chemistry from University of Leeds, UK; jointly supervised with Dr Yuan Guo from Food Science & Nutrition, Leeds) and 3 MChem project students (Harry Wilders, Brandon Frost, and Chris Worsnop).

Past PhD Students & Post-Graduation Destination. Dr Emma Poole (10/2015-4/2019), Postdoc, University of Manchester, UK. Dr Lorico Lapitan, Jr. (10/2014-7/2018, Lecturer, University of Santo Tomas, Philippines. Dr Weili Wang (10/2012-9/2016), Postdoc, Soochow University, China. Dr Yifei Kong (10/2011-9/2015), Postdoc, Harvard Medical School, USA. Dr Haiyan Zhang (6/2009-11/2013), Lecturer, Wuhan Light Industry University, Wuhan, China. Dr Yue Zhang (10/2009-7/2013, Chemistry J.B. Cohen Prize Thesis), Lecturer, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China. Dr Lei Song (10/2009-6/2013), Postdoc, University of Oxford, UK.

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 also the BBSRC funded White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP Scholarship. He also actively supports and hosts strong candidates to apply for externally funded research fellowships, e.g. Newton, Marie Curie, and RCUK fellowships.


Research interests

We are developing novel polyvalent multifunctional nanoparticles (PMNs) 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 infections and immune response regulation, but the underpinning mechanisms remain poorly understood due to challenges in solving structures of some important membrane lectins which are flexible, complex and multimeric. To address this challenge, we have pioneered a glycan-PMN approach to exploit the greatly enhanced binding affinity and specificity of multivalent binding and further integrate the unique size-dependent optical and magnetic properties of functional nanoparticles. We have developed a new method to make compact, dense polvalent sugar coated quantum dots (QDs) as virus mimics to probe multivalent binding with two tetrameric lectins (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-QDs 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 have been published in leading journals, e.g. Angew. Chem. and J. Am. Chem. Soc., and highlighted by University press release and featured on the Angew. Chem. back cover. We have been awarded a major BBSRC grant to develop novel glycan-PMN probes to elucidate fundamental structural and cellular mechanisms of lectin-glycan interactions and potently block viral infections (with Prof. WB Turnbull, Chemistry; Dr Y Guo, Food Science; Dr N Hondow, Chemical & Process Engineering; and Prof. S Pöhlmann, German Primate Centre, Germany). Moreover, we are also developing novel glycan-PMN based multifunctional tools to elucidate dendritic cell immune regulation mechanisms and develop novel immunotherapeutic strategies against cancer, allergy, and chronic immune diseases, e.g. 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.

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 & Prof. PG Stockley, 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 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 Dr A O’Neil, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Leeds and Prof. Xingyu 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 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="//">Optimising the gold nanorod platform for effective cancer theranostics</a></li>