Professor Dejian Zhou

Professor Dejian Zhou


I am a Professor of Nanochemistry, Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC), Associate Editor of Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal (Elsevier, 2022 IF: 6.16), Editorial Board of Sensors (MDPI, IF: 3.85) and Advisory Board of Particle & Particle System Characterization (Wiley, IF: 3.31). He obtained a BSc in Chemistry (1990) and PhD in functional ultrathin films (1995, with Chunhui Huang) both from Peking University, China. I received the prestigious Young Chemist Award from Chinese Chemical Society (1996) and the National Excellent PhD Thesis Award (1999, Ministry of Education, China). I 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 and manipulation of functional surface nanostructures and smart nanoparticle sensors (2000-2007, with Profs. Sir David Klenerman FRS, Chris Abell FRS, Trevor Rayment and Lisa Hall CBE). I was appointed to a Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds (2007) and promoted to full Professor of Nanochemsitry (2018). I have published four invited book chapters, 145 research papers (total citation >6270; H-index: 45, Google Scholar on 20/11/2022), including two research highlights on the BBC. I am 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
Erin Tait 10/2022- PhD student MChem in Chemistry, University of Bristol, UK. Probining viral receptors DC-SIGN/R-glycan interactions on surfaces (with Y Guo and R Ritcher)

Maisie Holbrow-Wilshaw

7/2022- PhD student MChem in Chemistry, University of Bristol, UK. Glycan-nanoprobes for modulating IL23 expression (with D McGonagleWB Turnbull and Y Guo)
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-PMNs for probing DC-SIGN/R binding mechanisms (main supervisor Y Guo)
Zeyang Pang 10/2018- PhD student BSc in Chemical Engineering, Tianjing University, China.  Gold nanoclusters for combating bacterial antibiotic resistance (co-supervisor X Jiang, SUSTech, China)
Xinyu Ning 10/2021- PhD student MSc in Cell Biology, Shanghai University, China Glycan-PMNs for modulating dendritic cell immune function via picodroplet analysis (with Y Guo)
Qian Peng 10/2021- PhD student MSc in Food Science, University of Leeds, UK New anticancer strategies by targeting lectin-glycan interactions (main supervisor, Y Guo)
Maria Simal Garcia 10/2022-4/2023 MChem student   Anti-cancer nanomedicine

Group Members Secured Academic Positions

Name Time Position in Group Current Position & Institution

Dr Yuan Guo

12/2011-11/2017 Postdoc and Wellcome Fellow Associate Professor, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.

Dr Lorico Lapitan, Jr.

10/2014-7/2018 PhD student University of Santo Tomas, Philippines.

Dr Uchangi S Akshatch

07/2018-07/2020 Marie Curie Fellow Scientist II, Nitte University, India.

Dr Shengrong Guo

10/2013-9/2015 Marie Curie Fellow Professor, Shanghai Jiao-Tong University, Shanghai, China.

Dr Haiyan Zhang

6/2009-11/2013 PhD student Wuhan Light Industry University, Wuhan, China.

Dr Yue Zhang

10/2009-7/2013 PhD student Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Dr Weili Wang

10/2012-9/2016 PhD student Soochow University, Suzhou, China

Dr Yifei Kong

10/2011-9/2015 PhD student Fudan University, Shanghai, China

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD candidates interested in novel nano-enabled approaches to address important, unmet biological and biomedical challenges. The 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. I also actively support and hosts qualified candidates to apply for the prestigious external research fellowships, e.g. Newton, Marie Curie, and RCUK fellowships.


  • Module Manager: CHEM54X0M Undergraduate Research Projects

Research interests

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

Glycan-PMN Probes: Multivalent lectin-carbohydrate interactions are central to viral/bacterial infection and immune regulation, but the underpinning mechanisms remain poorly understood, due to challenges in solving such flexible membrane lectin structures. We have pioneered a new glycan-PMN approach by exploiting  multivalency (i.e. greatly enhanced binding affinity & specificity) and nanoparticles (unique size-dependent optical properties) to address this challenge. We have  developed compact polvalent glycan-nanoparticles as multifunctional structural and mechanistic probes for tetrameric viral lectin receptors (DC-SIGN and DC-SIGNR) which play a key role in the HIV/Ebola and SARS-CoV-2 infections and regulating immune response. We demonstrate that glycan-quantum dots based PMNs not only allow for ratiometric quantification of DC-SIGN/R binding affinity, themodynamics and kinetic details via QD-FRET, but also for dissection of their exact binding modes by combining hydrodynamic and native state S/TEM analysis of binding induced QD assemblies. Moreover, the glycan-QDs also potently block DC-SIGN medicated Ebola virus infection of host cells. Our results have been published in leading journals, e.g. Angew. Chem. (2016, featured as a back cover & Leeds University press release) and J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2017), ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces (2022).[1-5] We are developing a glycan-QD based new biophysical platform for probing structural and biophysical mechanisms of multivalent lectin-glycan interactions (MLGIs) and for blocking specific MLGI mediated viral infections (with Prof. WB Turnbull, Chemistry; Dr Y Guo, Food Science; Dr N Hondow, Chemical & Process Engineering, Leeds, and Prof. S Pöhlmann German Primate Centre, Germany). To overcome QD’s toxicity issues in biomedical applications, we are developing a glycan-gold nanoparticle based biophysical platform to address MLGI structural and biophysical mechanisms and potential glycan based therapeutic against specific MLGIs. We jave devloped a new fluorescence quenching method for MLGI affinity quantification, and discovered that only a glycan-nanoparticle that bind simultaneously with lectin’s all four binding sites can potently and robustly block virus inhibition (featured on JACS cover, 2020).[6] 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; 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] Hooper et al. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 47385 (supplementary cover). [6] Budhadev et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142, 18022 (supplementary cover).

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.[5-7] 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; and Prof. X. Jiang, SUSTech, Shenzhen, 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; Mater. Today, 2021, 51, 96. [7] Pang et al. ACS Nano, 2022, 16, 16019.

PMN Antibiotics: The emergence of resistant bacteria (e.g. MSRA, VRE) has become 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 (Nature Nanotech. 2008 and BBC highlight). We are developing novel atomically precise gold nanomaterials that can exert multimodal antibacterial activities and sensitise resistant bacteria to existing antibiotics to address this problem (Chem. Sci. 2021, University Press Release and ScienceDaily highlight) [2]. We are balancing the different, and often contradicting, requirements of high antibacterial potency, biocompatibility and biosafey to address some key barriers that have so far largely prevented the translation of promising antibacterial nanomaterials into useful drugs. We are also developing targeted antibacterial nanomaterials to improve potency and selectivity (with Prof. A O’Neil, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Leeds, and Prof. X Jing, SUSTech, Shenzhen, China).

Selected Publications: [1] Ndieyira et al., Nature Nanotech., 2008, 3, 691. [2] Pang et al. Chem. Sci. 2021, 12, 14871.

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, Leeds).

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.

<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. I am module manager of the CHEM54X0M Undergraduate research project.

Research groups and institutes

  • Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Current postgraduate researchers

<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>