Professor Dejian Zhou

Professor Dejian Zhou


Dejian is Professor of Nanochemistry and a Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) based at School of Chemistry, University of Leeds. He is pursuing a novel polyvalent multifunctional nanoparticle (PMN) strategy to address some important biological and biomedical challenges. Dejian obtained his BSc (Chemistry) in 1990 and PhD (organised molecular thin films, with Chunhui Huang) in 1995, respectively, both from Peking University, China. He received the Young Chemist Award (Chinese Chemical Society) in 1996 and the National Excellent PhD Thesis Award in 1999 (Ministry of Education, China). He pursued further postdoctoral research on organised molecular thin films at Cranfield University (with Geoffrey Ashwell, FRSC). He became interested in nanochemistry and moved to University of Cambridge (2000-2007, with David Klenerman FRS, Chris Abell FRS, and Trevor Rayment) to develop novel approaches for the controlled assembly and manipulation of functional nanostructures and smart nanoparticle sensors. Dejian joined University of Leeds as a Senior Lecturer in 2007 and was promoted to full Professor in Nanochemsitry in 2018. He has published some 135 peer reviewed papers, 2 book chapters (total citation count: 4889; H-index: 40, Goole Scholar on 10/05/2019) and two research highlights on the BBC. Dejian is a member of the cross-faculty interdisplinary research centre, Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at Leeds.

Dejian sits on the International Advisory Board of Particle & Particle System Characterization (an Advance Materials sister journal, Wiley VCH), serves as an Associate Editor for Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal (Elsevier) and several other journals.

Dejian welcomes inquires from potential PhD students interested in developing novel nano-enabled approaches to address biological and biomedical challenges. The University of Leeds offers several scholarship schemes, e.g. Leeds-China Scholarship Council scholarships; Leeds Doctoral Scholarships; and others.

Dejian also actively supports suitably qualtified candidates for applying to external research fellowships, e.g. Newton, Marie Curie, and RCUK fellowships.

The current group is made of 1 Marie Curie fellow (Dr Asthath U.S.), 2 postdoctoral research fellows (Dr Darshita Budhadev; Dr Liz Kalverda), 4 PhD students (Emma Poole (finishing up); Rahman Basaran; Zeyang Pang (Leeds-Southern University of Science Technology (China) joint student); James Hooper (jointly supervised with Dr Yuan Guo) adn 3 MSc students (Alex St John; Zhiming Li; Xinran Wang).


  • 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 remain poorly understood due to challenges in solving the structure of such flexible, complex and multimeric membrane lectins. To address this challenge, we are pioneering a glycan-PMN approach to exploit multivalency and integrate nanoparticles' unique properties and functions. We have developed a new method to make compact, dense sugar coated 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 infections and immune response regulation. We find that the glycan-QD PMNs not only can quantify their binding affinity with DC-SIGN/R, but also dissect the different binding mode and potently block DC-SIGN medicated pseudo-Ebola virus infection of target cells. Some initial results have been published in the leading high impact journals, e.g. Angew. Chem. 2016 and J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, and highlighted by University press release and featured on the Angew. Chem. back cover. We have been awarded a major BBSRC grant recently to develop the glycan-PMN based multidisciplinary approaches to elucidate the fundamental structural mechanisms and also 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, 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. 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 (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
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