Dr Peter Nicholls

Dean of KentHealth


Peter is a cell and molecular biologist with 30 years of experience working at the interfaces between academia, industry and clinical research. After graduating from the University of Southampton with a BSc in Biochemistry, he completed a PhD at the University of London where he developed a novel DNA-based screening method for identifying and typing human papillomavirus (HPV) infections in clinical samples.

He then moved on to undertake post-doctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, MD, USA) taking up a Fogarty Visiting International Fellowship in the laboratory of Richard Youle (National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke). The main focus of his work was developing our understanding of the mechanisms by which bacterial toxins penetrate and kill human cells, and exploring new rationally engineered antibody-targeted therapies that harness the power of bacterial toxins for the treatment of cancer.

After a period developing this work further as a Visiting Associate in Jerry Keith’s laboratory at the National Institute for Dental Research (Bethesda, MD, USA), Peter returned to the UK as a research scientist working for one of the first UK-based antibody engineering companies – Celltech – based in Slough. Here he contributed to a newly formed research group focussing on the application of engineered antibodies and their fragments for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune disease.

After two years in industry, the call of academia became strong, and Peter took up an academic post in the Department of Biosciences at the University of Kent, where he has been based since 1995. In his time at Kent, Peter’s research has continued to focus on therapeutic applications of engineered antibodies, and he has secured funding from a variety of sources including the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), The Royal Society, and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).

His work on the development of a novel targeted radio-immunotherapy approach for the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) was generously supported for 8 years by the UK-based research charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. Peter has successfully supervised seven PhD students, numerous Master’s students, and he continues to enjoy teaching undergraduate students immunology, cancer biology and haematology.

Academic career

Dr. Peter Nicholls has served as the Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences for four years, and was Master of Eliot College for a period. He is currently the Faculty of Sciences Director of Internationalisation, and was delighted to take on the role of Dean of KentHealth in the summer of 2014. He relishes the challenge of building on the considerable success of his predecessor Professor Peter Jeffries, and looks forward to working closely with colleagues in higher education institutions, hospital trusts and industry in Kent, Surrey and Sussex to enhance medically-related research and training in the region and beyond.


Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository


  • Mason, M., Shepherd, M., Nicholls, P., Dobbin, P., Dodsworth, K., Poole, R. and Cooper, C. (2009). Cytochrome bd confers nitric oxide resistance to Escherichia coli. Nature Chemical Biology [Online] 5:94-6. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.135.
  • Mason, M., Holladay, R., Nicholls, P., Shepherd, M. and Cooper, C. (2008). A quantitative approach to nitric oxide inhibition of terminal oxidases of the respiratory chain. Methods in Enzymology [Online] 437:135-159. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0076-6879(07)37008-0.
  • Harris, S., Jones, D., Gallimore, M., Nicholls, P. and Winter, M. (2005). The antigenic binding site(s) of antibodies to factor XII associated with the antiphospholipid syndrome. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis [Online] 3:969-975. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=15869593.
  • Emberson, L., Trivett, A., Blower, P. and Nicholls, P. (2005). Expression of an anti-CD33 single-chain antibody by Pichia pastoris. Journal of Immunological Methods [Online] 305:135-151. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jim.2005.04.005.
  • Austin, C., Emberson, L. and Nicholls, P. (2004). Purification and characterization of pheromaxein, the porcine steroid-binding protein. A member of the secretoglobin superfamily. European Journal of Biochemistry [Online] 271:2593-2606. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=15206925.
  • Ellery, J. and Nicholls, P. (2002). Possible mechanism for the alpha subunit of the interleukin-2 receptor (CD25) to influence interleukin-2 receptor signal transduction. Immunology and Cell Biology [Online] 80:351-357. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=12121224.
  • Jones, D., Nicholls, P., Donohoe, S., Gallimore, M. and Winter, M. (2002). Antibodies to factor XII are distinct from antibodies to prothrombin in patients with the anti-phospholipid syndrome. Thrombosis and Haemostasis [Online] 87:426-430. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=11916074.
  • Ellery, J. and Nicholls, P. (2002). Alternate signalling pathways from the interleukin-2 receptor. Cytokine & Growth Factor Reviews [Online] 13:27-40. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1359-6101(01)00023-5.
  • Ellery, J., Kempshall, S. and Nicholls, P. (2000). Activation of the interleukin 2 receptor: a possible role for tyrosine phosphatases. Cellular Signalling [Online] 12:367-373. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0898-6568(00)00085-1.
  • Woolven, B., Frenken, L., van der Logt, P. and Nicholls, P. (1999). The structure of the Ilama heavy chain constant genes reveals a mechanism for heavy-chain antibody formation. Immunogenetics [Online] 50:98-101. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s002510050694.
  • Ellery, J., Kempshall, S., Emberson, L. and Nicholls, P. (1998). Anti-CD33 engineered lymphocytes for the treatment of myeloid leukaemia. Molecular Biology of the Cell 9:478A-478A.


  • Jones, D., Nicholls, P., Harris, S., Gallimore, M. and Winter, M. (1999). The Detection of Antibodies to Factor XII in Lupus Anticoagulant Positive Patients by the Use of Surface Plasmon Resonance. F K Schattauer GMBH.


  • Tolley, C. (2015). Co-Expression of Factor VIII With Anti-FVIII Camelid Antibody Ligands: Effect on Expression Levels of Bio-Therapeutic FVIII.


  • Jones, D., Harris, S., Gallimore, M., Nicholls, P. and Winter, M. (1999). The use of surface plasmon resonance for the detection of antibodies to blood coagulation factors. British Journal of Haematology 105:271.
Total publications in KAR: 14 [See all in KAR]