Professor Mike McPherson

Professor Mike McPherson


I studied at Leeds gaining a PhD in Genetics in the early days of molecular biology and was the first person in Leeds to sequence a gene, perform site-directed mutagenesis and undertake PCR experiments. Following an MRC funded post-doc I was apppointed to a Lectureship in Biotechnology at Leeds in 1985 becoming a senior lecturer in 1992, Reader in 1998 and Professor of Biomolecular Engineering in 2002. My research has always involved interdisciplinary studies and a key research area has been the structural molecular dissection and protein engineering of copper containing oxidases.

In 2010 I was involved in establishing the Leeds Biomedical Health Research Centre BioScreening Technology (BSTG) and have been its Director since then. The BSTG offered an siRNA library screening service and developed an non-antibody binding protein screening service based on a robust scaffold protein that I had developed in previous work. The focus of my research now is on exploiting these non-antibody binding proteins, originally called Adhirons which the University has patented and licensed to Avacta LifeSciences Ltd where they form part of the Affimer Technology platform.

I have also held senior roles in the Faculty and University including Director of the Faculty Graduate School, first Director of the Faculty Undergraduate School, Pro-Dean for Student Education and Interim Dean of the Faculty. I am currently a Chair of the University Committee on Applications which deals with cases of student appeals, and malpractice allegations.

Research interests

I am no longer accepting applications from PhD students or post-doctoral researchers.

Affimer binding proteins as research tools, incluidng diagnostics, imaging and therapy

We have developed a small stable protein scaffold called Affimer (previously Adhiron)and have generated high quality phage dipslay libraries with variable regions of sequence. Affimers binding proteins can be selected against a wide range of targets by phage library biopanning. Affimers are small (ca 12 kDa), stable, and can be produced as recombinant proteins on a large scale. Affimer proteins represent important tools for scientific investigations, essentially providing reproducible binding reagents that can replace antibodies in many molecular recognition applications.

Affimer reagents can be used in applications such as biosensors, as imaging reagents, as co-crystallization chaperones, to identify sites that modulate or interfere with protein function or protein-protein interactions and can identify druggable sites. In addition to bacterial production, they can also be expressed in mammalian cells for functional studies to identify or modulate endogenous proteins, and thus have potential as therapeutic agents.


We are interested in the generation of binding partners to antimicrobial and disease related biomarkers for incorporation into multiplex detection devices for clinical applications. We are particularly interested in the development of point-of-care systems.  Enhancement of sensitivity and selectivity are critical factors for many diagnostic applications and we are exploting enzyme based systems to increase sensitivity of a range of assay formats.

Antimicrobial resistance

A major focus  is currently on antimicrobial resistance by exploiting Affimer reagents in (a) the development of point-of-care tests for both host response biomarkers and bacterial resistance proteins and (b) the development of alternative therapeutic agents such as resistance neutralisers to restore existing antibiotic sensitivity.

BioScreening Technology Group (BSTG)

Affimer screening is undertaken within the BSTG that was supported by the Leeds Biomedical Health Research Centre. We provide a screening service for academics and clinicians and collaborate in a wide range of  projects with colleagues in Leeds as well as nationally and internationally.

Find out more about research affiliations at:

<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, 1979; PhD 1983;