Dr Dejian Zhou


Dejian is a nanochemist who is pursuing a novel polyvalent multifunctional nanoparticle (PMN) strategy to address some important, unmet biomedical challenges. Dejian obtained his BSc in Chemistry in 1990 and PhD in Chemistry in 1995 (on organised functional molecular thin films with Chunhui Huang) both from College of Chemistry, Peking University, China. He received the Young Chemist Award by the Chinese Chemical Society in 1996 (only 7 chemists of under 35 received this award in 1996) and also the National Excellent PhD Thesis Award in 1999 by Ministry of Education, China. He pursued further postdoctoral research on organised functional molecular thin films at Cranfield University (with Geoffrey Ashwell). He became interested in nanochemistry and pursued further postdoctoral research at University of Cambridge (2000-2007, with David Klenerman FRS, Chris Abell FRS, and Trevor Rayment) on developing novel approaches for the controlled assembly and manipulation of functional nanostructures and then smart nanoparticle biosensors. Dejian joined Leeds as Senior Lecturer in Nanochemistry in 2007 to develop novel nano-enabled approaches for biodiagnostic, therapeutic applications. He has published 134 peer reviewed papers, 2 book chapters (total citation: 4336; H-index: 35, Goole Scholar on 09/02/2018) and two research highlights on the BBC. He was elected to Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) in 2016. Dejian is also a member of the cross-faculty interdisplinary Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at Leeds.

Two new research fellow positions are available in the Zhou group: carbohydrate nanochemistry (deadline: 3/4/2018) and protein biochemistry (deadline: 5/4/2018).


  • Deputy Chair, School of Chemistry Safety Committee

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 sugar binding protein (lectin)-carbohydrate interactions are central to viral and bacterial infections and also regulation of immuno-response, but the underpinning mechanisms are often poorly understood due to challenges in solving such flexible, complex and multimeric membrane lectins. To address this challenge, we are pioneering a novel glycan-PMN approach to exploit multivalency and unique properties of nanoparticles. We have recently developed a new method to make dense sugar coated strongly fluorescent quantum dots (QDs) as virus mimics to study their multivalent binding with the tetrameric lectins (DC-SIGN/R) which play a key role in facilitating the HIV/Ebola viral infection. We find that the glycan-QD PMNs not only can quantify their binding affinity, but also dissect DC-SIGN/R’s different binding mode and potently block pseudo-Ebola virus infection of target cells. Our initial results have been published in leading chemistry journals such as Angew. Chem. 2016 and JACS 2017 and also highlighted by Leeds University press release, and featured on the back cover of Angew. Chem.. We have been recently awarded a major BBSRC grant to further develop the glycan-PMN approach to elucidate the fundamental structural mechanisms and to develop polyvalent glycan-nanoparticles as potent anti-viral reagents (with Prof. Turnbull, Chemistry; Dr Guo, Food Science; Dr Hondow, Chemical Engineering & Prof. Pöhlmann, German Primate Centre).

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, we are developing ultrasensitive PMN sensors that can specifically detect target biomarkers down to sub-fM (10-15 M) level, making it suitable for earlier detection and diagnosis of deadly diseases such as cancer (with Prof. Quirke, Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology; Dr Tomlinson & Prof. Stockley, Faculty of Biological Sciences).

PMN Antibiotics

The emergence of resistant bacteria (e.g. MSRA, VRE) has created a major global health problem. Previously, in collaboration with Prof. McKendry (University College London) we have developed a novel microcantalever array based rapid screening method for vancomycin-muocpetide interactions (BBC highlight). We are developing novel PMN antibiotics to enhance the potency of existing antibiotics by exploiting multivalency and harnessing the intrinsic anti-bacterial properties of nanomaterials to offer a safer, faster, and cheaper alternative way to combat bacterial antibiotic resistance problem (with Dr O’Neil, Faculty of Biological Sciences).


  • BSc in Chemistry, 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 students

I am also invloved in lecturing postgraduate modules for biological science and chemical engineering students.

I also act as personal tutor for chemistry level 1-level 5 students.  

Research groups and institutes

  • Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Current postgraduate research students

Postgraduate research opportunities

We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our research opportunities allow you to search for projects and scholarships.

Projects currently available: