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Prof Michael McPherson | Faculty of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Biological Sciences

Prof Michael McPherson

BSc, 1979; PhD 1983; Leeds.
Interim Dean & Pro-Dean for Student Education, Professor of Biomolecular Engineering, Director of the BioScreening Technology Group
School of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Background: Lecturer in Biotechnology 1985, Senior Lecturer 1992, Reader 1998; Leverhulme Trust/Royal Society Senior Research Fellow 1993-4; Professor 2002.

Contact:  Miall 7.07 (PA, Dean/Sue Yeadon, Pro-Dean/Christine Everson) | +44(0) 113 34 32595/35647/32437 | email address for  

You can read more about Prof McPherson's interests here:

Research Interests

Protein engineering, Adhirons (artificial binding proteins) and synthetic biology

Adhiron binding proteins as research tools, for diagnostics, imaging, therapy and synthetic biology

We have developed a small stable protein scaffold called AdhironTM that is used to create complex libraries with randomized regions that create novel binding sites. The adhirons are binding proteins that represent small, robust alternatives to antibodies.

By using phage display the adhiron libraries can be screened against a wide range of  target molecules to identify specific binders that can then be readily produced on a large scale. Adhirons represent important tools for scientific investigations, essentially replacing antibodies with stable simple reagents.

They can be used in applications such as biosensors, development of imaging reagents, as co-crystallization chaperones, to identify sites that modulate or interfere with function thus identifying druggable sites, and as therapeutic agents. For example, we are interested in the generation of binding partners to disease related biomarkers for incorporation into multiplex individually addressable electronic detection devices, or as visual sensors by coupling to quantum dots for clinical applications.

However, Adhirons can be selected for use in any diagnostic application including those for environmental, security or agricultural purposes. We are also interested in large scale screens such as membrane protein structural proteomics through the production of co-crystallization chaperones. Other applications relate to in vivo expression to interfere with protein-protein interactions including the ability to modulate protein function as well as to provide scaffolds for applications including synthetic biology for the development of organisms that can undertake new and important functions.

We have recently established a Bioscreening Technology Group supported by the Leeds Biomedical Health Research Centre to provide a screening service for academics and clinicians and we undertake a range of collaborative projects with colleagues in Leeds, nationally and internationally.

Copper enzymes that build their own cofactors

We study copper oxidases that generate their own cofactors by post-translational modification of active site amino-acids. We use gene cloning, protein engineering, protein expression, enzymology, spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography to study the catalytic mechanisms, substrate binding and cofactor formation in these enzymes. We also engineer the enzymes for novel functionality using saturation mutagenesis and directed evolution methods. We are interested in structure-function studies on a range of these proteins including those associated with human health and disease. Particular targets include galactose oxidase, amine oxidases and lysyl oxidase.

Find out more about research affiliations at:


Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Projects are available as either laboratory or literature format in the areas indicated in the Research Interests section below.

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Protein engineering and directed evolution of copper oxidases. This involves a range of molecular biology and protein characterisation methods with the possibility of x-ray structure studies of proteins.
  • Adhirons as artificial binding proteins for diagnostics, imaging and therapeutics and synthetic biology applications. This may involve design and construction of new libraries, the use of phage display libraries for screening against targets, validation of hits, protein expression and characterization. The projects are highly collaborative with other biological and physical scientists, clinicians and engineers. Targets can be soluble and membrane proteins, peptides, cells, small molecules etc.
  • Projects are available in all areas of research, broadly defined as above.

See also:

Admin roles

Biomedical Health Research Centre Executive Committee
Biomedical Health Research Centre Steering Group
Committee on Applications
Curriculum Enhancement Project Board
External Examiner (taught course): Liverpool
Faculty Research & Innovation Committee
FBS Student Recruitment Committee, Chair
FBS Employability Committee (Chair)
FBS Equality and Diversity Committee
FBS Exective Committee
FBS Facilities Liaison Group
FBS Faculty Board
FBS Industrial Advisory Board, Academic Chair
FBS Reward and Recognition Committee
FBS Strategy Group
FBS Undergraduate Recruitment Group
Graduate Board, Taught Student Board
Honorary Degrees Committee
Library Strategy Committee
Pricing and Scholarship Sub Group
Pro-Dean for Student Education
PVC and Pro-Deans meetings
Student Recruitment Committee
Taught Student Education Board
Teaching Enhancement Scheme group, Chair
University N8 Industrial Biotechnology representative
University Research Ethics Committee

Modules taught

BIOC2301/BIOL2111 - Integrated Biochemistry/Genetic Engineering
BIOC3160 - Lab/Lit/Comp Research Project
BIOC3231/32/33 a - ATU 10 - Directed evolution
BIOC3231/32/33 b - ATU 33 - Synthetic Biology
BIOL1302 - Intro Skills - Biological Sci
BIOL3306 - Biol Sciences Research Project
BIOL5271M - Research Planning and Scientific Communication
BIOL5272M - Advanced Biomolecular Technologies
BIOL5292M - Bioscience MSc Research Proj
BIOL5294M - MSc Bioscience Res Project Pro
BIOW5901X - Foundation module


Chair of Faculty Taught Student Education Committee
Member of Graduate School Taught Student Education Committee
Member of Undergraduate School Taught Student Education Committee

Centre membership: The Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology

Group Leader Prof Michael McPherson  (Interim Dean & Pro-Dean for Student Education, Professor of Biomolecular Engineering, Director of the BioScreening Technology Group)

Protein engineering, Adhirons (artificial binding proteins) and synthetic biology 

Dr Sarah Deacon  (Research Fellow)

Development of Antibody Mimetics For Clinical Diagnostics 

Dr Thembaninkosi Gaule  (Research Fellow)

Dr Suja George  (Research Fellow)

Miss Anna Tang  (Research Technician)

Dr Christian Tiede  (Research Fellow)


Modupe Ajayi  
Danah Al-Qallaf  
Nesma Al-Shaikhly  
Lia De Faveri  
James Edmundson  
Sophie Heseltine  
Birthe Lang  
Thanisorn Mahatnirunkul  
Philip Morrison  
Janice Robottom  
Mark Sellick  
Pattanapong Thangsunan