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 (Wiley, IF: 4.19). He obtained his BSc in Chemistry (1990) and PhD on functional organised ultrathin films (1995, with Prof. Chunhui Huang) 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 postdoctoral research on functional ultrathin films at Cranfield University, UK (with Prof. Geoffrey Ashwell, FRSC). He moved to University of Cambridge to develop novel approaches for the controlled assembly and manipulation of functional nanostructures and development of smart nanoparticle sensors (2000-2007, with Prof. Sir David Klenerman FRS, Prof. Chris Abell FRS, Prof. Trevor Rayment and Prof. Lisa Hall). He was appointed to Senior Lecturer at University of Leeds (2007) and promoted to Professor of Nanochemsitry (2018). He has published >140 research papers, 4 invited book chapters (total citation >5250; H-index: 41, Goole Scholar on 16/5/2020) and 2 research highlights on the BBC. He is a PI member of two cross-faculty interdisplinary centres, 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 SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Fellow PhD in Life Science-Nanotechnology,Central Food Technological Research Institute, Karnataka, India. Glycan-nanoparticle assemblies as new structural and mechanistic probes for DC-SIGN/R-glycan interactions (with Bruce Turnbull)
Dr Darshita Budhadev 11/2018- Postdoctoral Researcher PhD in Synthetic Carbohydrate Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Kolkata, India. Polyvalent glycan-nanoparticles as multifunctional structural and mechanistic probes for lectin-glycan interactions (with Bruce Turnbull and Yuan Guo)
Dr Elizabeth Kalverda 8/2018- Postdoctoral Researcher PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, U.K. Probing molecular and structural mechanism of lectin receptors DC-SIGN/R via glycan-nanoparticles & molecular biology (with Yuan Guo and Bruce Turnbull)
Rahman Basaran 3/2018- PhD student MSc in Pharmaceutical Toxicology, Ankara Univeristy, Turkey. Multifunctional glycan-gold nanoparticles probes for multivalent lectin-glycan interactions & blocking virus infection (co-supervised with Yuan Guo)
James Hooper 10/2018- PhD student MChem in Chemistry, University of Leeds, U.K. Probing DC-SIGN/R-glycan binding and dendritic cell immune regulation mechanisms using multifunctional glycan-nanoparticles. (jointly supervised with Yuan Guo)
Zeyang Pang 10/2018- PhD student BSc in Chemical Engineering, Tianjing University, China  Developing multifunctional nano-antibiotics against multidrug resistant bacteria (jointly supervised with Xingyu Jiang, Southern University of Science & Technology, China)
Harry Wilders 10/2019- MChem student   Developing virus mimicking glycan-nanoparticle assemblies as multifunctional probes for virus-dendritic cell interactions
Brandon Frost 10/2019- MChem student   Developing multifunctional glycan-gold nanorods as structrual probes for DC-SIGN/R
Chris Worsnop 10/2019- MChem student   Probing multivalent lectin-glycan binding affinity enhancement mechanism via engineered DC-SIGN and glycan-quantum dot

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, 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 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 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 Rongjun Chen, Imperial College London; Dr James Mclaughlan, School of Electric & Electronic Engineering, Leeds; Prof. Xingyu 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 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 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>