Dr Li studied Biochemistry at Jilin University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and gained his PhD in Chemistry from Zhejiang University, China. Subsequently he worked on anticancer drug discovery and development in Chengdu Diao Pharmaceutical Group, China. He was awarded a postdoctoral scholarship by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to investigate secondary metabolites and enzymes from plant cell cultures at the University of Muenster, Germany. He then researched peptide/protein design and engineering at the University of Freiburg, Germany. From there Dr Li moved to the University of Oxford to work on carbohydrates, membrane proteins and epigenetic DNA. He took up a lectureship in November 2011 and was promoted to senior lecturer in May 2020 in the School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering at Keele University.

Research and scholarship

Research theme: Therapeutics

In our team we are exploring drug discovery and development, as well as bioengineering of peptides and antibodies for biomedical application in cancer and infectious diseases. To achieve our goals, we use interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches such as analytical (bio)chemistry, medicinal chemistry, mammalian and microbial cell cultures, immunoblotting, flow cytometry, fluorescence scanning electron microscopy, epigenetic and proteomics analysis.

Novel therapy development

  • Small molecules

Medicines from nature have long been used for the therapy of various kinds of disease. Even today, many drugs are from or derived from natural products. Penicillin is the first  antibiotic discovered in the UK; paclitaxel isolated from yew trees in the USA is a well-known chemotherapy drug for the treatment of different cancers including ovarian, breast and lung cancer; artemisinin (qinghao su, 青蒿素) discovered in China is the first-line therapy against malaria.

Due to the development of multi-drug resistance in cancers and microbial pathogens, there is an urgent need to discover and develop new medicines with novel mechanisms of action to combat these diseases. Currently, we are exploring anticancer, antibacterial and antimalarial compounds from natural sources including  Chinese medicinal plants and African medicinal plants and marine organisms. Our aim is to discover new bioactive natural products, make their analogues via semi-synthesis or biotransformation, and understand their mechanisms of action and pharmacokinetics. We hope to develop hit compounds to lead compounds and to clinical trial candidates, and eventually as safe and effective medicines. 

Wen-Wu Li research image 1 resized

     F. Uche, et al. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett., 2018, 28, 1652

Collaborators: Dr Alan Richardson, Prof. Paul Horrocks (Keele); Prof. Tim Claridge, Prof. James McCullagh, (Oxford); Dr Vidushi S Neergheen-Bhujan (Mauritius).  

  • Antibody-drug conjugates 

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are emerging as a highly potent and targeted hybrid class of biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer. ADCs comprise an antibody, a linker and a cytotoxic drug. By combining the highly specific targeting capabilities of a monoclonal antibody raised against a particular tumour marker with the cytotoxic drug, ADCs allow for focussed discrimination between healthy and diseased tissue. To date, four ADCs have received approval for treatment of various cancers; these are gemtuzumab ozogamicin; brentuximab vedotin, and trastuzumab emtansine. Many other ADCs are at different stages of clinical development. Novel ADCs against different types of cancers are highly desired. Our aims are to design and make novel ADCs using highly toxic natural products as payloads to treat ovarian cancer with minimal side effects.


Collaborators:  Dr. Alan Richardson, Dr. Sarah Hart, Prof. Murray Brunt.

Biomedical Engineering

Medical device related infections constitute up to 60% of health care associated infections due to biofilm formation. Biofilms protect cells from environmental stresses, and host immune responses. It has been reported that 99.9% of bacteria grow as aggregated "sessile" communities attached to surfaces, rather than as "planktonic" or free-floating cells in liquid. As a consequence, antibiotics act against bacteria in biofilms less effectively. Thus, antimicrobial peptides, including plant-derived cyclotides, designed and synthetic peptides are considered to be promising agents against multidrug-resistant bacterial biofilm infections. Antibacterial coating has become a favourable approach to tackle bacterial pathogens on the implant surfaces. Therefore, we aim to use novel antimicrobial peptides to bind to metallic surfaces of implant in order to address biofilm-associated infection.

Wen-Wu Li research image 3 resized

P. Cao, et al. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19, 793

Collaborators:  Prof. Ying Yang, Dr. Sarah Hart (Keele), Prof. Chengqing Yuan (China).



Current teaching

MRes Bioengineering
Course Director for MRes Bioengineering programme
PHA-40196 Research Project (Module Co-ordinator)

MSc Cell & Tissue Engineering and Biomedical Engineering
MTE-40015 Project – Medical. Technology (dissertation) (Module Co-ordinator)
MTE-40025 Molecular Techniques: Application in Tissue Engineering (Module Co-ordinator)
MTE-40029 Medical Equipment and Technology Services Management (Module Co-ordinator)

Master of Pharmacy
PHA-40190 Development of Biopharmaceutics
PHA-40120 Stage 4 Research project, supervising student projects
Undergraduate programme - Pharmaceutical science, Technology and Business
PHA-30025 - Pharmaceutical Science Research Project

Past teaching

LSC-40017 Introduction to Scientific Research (Module Co-ordinator)

Dr Li is a Fellow of the High Education Academy. He has completed the MA degree in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

Further information

Memberships of professional societies:

  • The Royal Society of Chemistry
  • The Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • The European Association for Cancer Research
  • European Peptide Society
  • Phytochemical Society of Europe
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)





Cover illustration from Dr Li's publication in Nature Chemistry 2010 and frontispiece from Angewandte Chemie 2013.


The Royal Society

The Royal Society of Chemistry

BBSRC HVCfP network

North Staffordshire Medical Institute

Nigerian ETF

Niger Delta Development Commission

Nigerian Tertiary Education Trust Fund

Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research

Keele University - Medical Research Council (MRC) Centenary Award

Keele QR GCRF Pump Priming Awards 

PhD Students

Current PhD Student

Fadayomi Idowu Eniafe Fadayomi (2016-)

Previous PhD Students:

  • Rakad Al-Jumaily (PhD, 2014 - 2018)
  • Fidelia I. Uche (PhD, 2012 -2016)
  • Okiemute Rosa Johnson-Ajinwo (PhD, 2012-2017)
  • Omar Aldulaimi (PhD, 2013-2017)

 Previous visiting students:

  • Nawraj Rummun, (visit PhD, University of Mauritius, 2017)
  • Pan Cao (visit PhD, Wuhan University of Technology, China, 2016-2017)
  • Sarra Maarfia (visit PhD, Larbi Ben M’Hidi University, Algeria, 2016)
  • Rima Beesoo (visit PhD, University of Mauritius, 2016)

Awards to PhD Students

Fadayomi Idowu Eniafe Fadayomi, Best poster award, “Role of sesquiterpene lactones against human ovarian cancer”. The 5th International Conference on the Mechanism of Action of Nutraceuticals, 2017, Aberdeen, UK

Okiemute Rosa Johnson-Ajinwo, Best poster award, “Design, synthesis, Drug-likeness and and anti-ovarian cancer activities of thymoquinone analogues”. Annual meeting of the Phytochemical Society of North America, 2015, Illinois, USA

Omar Aldulaimi, Best poster award, “Synthesis and antibacterial effects of novel gallic acid derivatives”. 6th APS International PharmSci Conference. 2015, Nottingham, UK

Omar Aldulaimi, BBSRC High Value Chemicals from Plants (HVCfP) network training fund


Informal enquiries regarding PhD or MPhil postgraduate studies in my team can be made by email to prior to the formal application process. 


Potential Funding Sources

Commonwealth Scholarships for Master’s and PhD study – developing Commonwealth country citizens.

School address:
School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering
Hornbeam Building
Keele University

Research centre address:
School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering
Guy Hilton Research Centre
Thornburrow Drive

Undergraduate enquiries:
Tel: +44 (0)1782 734010

Postgraduate enquiries:
Please contact the CPD4ALL team:


Keele Centre for Medicines Optimisation (KCMO)
Tel: +44 (0)1782 733831 / 734131

The Virtual Patient project enquiries:
Contact our Digital Development team: