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 (1997-2000, with Geoffrey Ashwell, FRSC) before moving to University of Cambridge to develop nano-enabled approaches for the controlled assembly of functional nanostructures and smart nanoparticle sensors (2000-2007, with Profs. Sir David Klenerman FRS, Chris Abell FRS, Trevor Rayment and Lisa Hall CBE). He was appointed to a Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds (2007) and promoted to full Professor of Nanochemsitry (2018). He has published 4 invited book chapters, >140 research papers (total citation >5450; H-index: 42, Goole Scholar on 24/10/2020), including 2 research highlights on the BBC. He is a PI member of the cross-faculty Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology and Bragg Centre for Materials Research at the University of Leeds.

Current Group Members.

Name Time Position Qualifications Research Project
Dr Darshita Budhadev 11/2018- Research fellow PhD in Carbohydrate Chemistry, Kolkata, India. Postdoc, University of York, UK. Glycan-PMN probes for viral receptors DC-SIGN/R (with WB Turnbull and Y Guo)
Dr Elizabeth Kalverda 8/2018- Research fellow PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, U.K Structural mechanisms of viral receptors DC-SIGN/R (with Y Guo and WB Turnbull)
Rahman Basaran 3/2018- PhD student MSc in Pharmaceutical Toxicology, Ankara University, Turkey Glycan-PMN probes for 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, U.K. Glycan-PMN probe for DC-SIGN/R binding and dendritic cell immune regulation (main supervisor Y Guo)
Zeyang Pang 10/2018- PhD student BSc in Chemical Engineering, Tianjing University, China.  Multifunctional nano-antibiotics against resistant bacteria (co-supervised with X Jiang, Southern University of Science & Technology, China)
Dr Abhishek Santra To join in 6/2021- Marie Curie Fellow PhD in Carbohydrate Chemistry, Bose Institute, India. Postdoc, Univ. California, Los Angeles, U.S.A. Glycan-PMNs for specific DC-SIGN targeting and modulating dendritic cell immune function (with WB Turnbull and Y Guo)
Cao Lin 6-9/2021 MSc student   Probing multivalent lectin-glycan interaction using polyvalent glycan-quantum rods
Hongji Han 6-9/2021 MSc student BSc, Nanjing Tech University, Nanjing, China Probing dithiol-thiol ligand exchange on gold nanoparticles

Past PhD Students & Immediate Destination.

Name Time Immediate Position Immediate Destination
Dr Emma Poole 10/2015-4/2019 Postdoc University of Manchester, 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, Suzhou, China.
Dr Yifei Kong 10/2011-9/2015 Postdoc Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, USA.
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 Postdoc University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

He welcomes inquires from potential PhD candidates interested in novel nano-enabled approaches to address important, unmet biological and biomedical challenges. University of Leeds offers several scholarship schemes, e.g. University of 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 have been published in leading journals, e.g. Angew. Chem. (2016) as back cover and J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2017), and highlighted by University press release.[1-4] We hold a major BBSRC grant to develop glycan-PMNs for probing structural 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) in collaboration with Prof. S Pöhlmann, German Primate Centre, Germany. We have recently developed a new fluorescence quenching method for lectin-glycan binding quantification, and discovered that the binding mode between glycan-nanoparticles and target lectin is key to robust virus inhibition (featured as a cover on J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020).[5] We are also developing glycan-PMNs tools to elucidate dendritic cell immune regulation mechanisms and potential immunotherapeutic strategies against cancer, allergy, and arthritis (with Dr Y Guo, Food Science; Dr M Wittmann & 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 (back cover); [2] J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 11833; [3] Methods Enzymology, 2018, 598, 71. [4] Hooper et al. ACS Symposium Series, 2020, 1346, 47. [5] Budhadev et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142, 18022 (supplementary cover).

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 D 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; Nanoscale 2020, 12, 8647. [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-triggered conformational changes of 4-stranded DNA structure “i-motif” to achieve intracellular pH triggered drug release.[1-3]  We are exploiting multivalent 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.[4] Meanwhile, we are integrating the unique size-/shape- dependent physical-/chemical- properties of nanomaterials to offer stimuli-response release, imaging and therapeutic functions.[5,6] We are further incorporating chemotherapeutic and immune modulating functions of glycan-PMNs to provide 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 (back cover) & ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2015, 7, 18707; [4] Lv et al. Adv. Healthcare Mater. 2015, 4, 1496; [5] Zhang et al., J. Controlled Release, 2016, 232, 9; [6] Kong et al., Nanoscale 2013, 5, 1009 & 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., 2008, 3, 691.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BSc in Chemistry (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 chemistry for chemistry and materials students. I am also involved 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-Glycan Interactions using Polyvalent Multifunctional Glycan-Nanoparticle</a></li>