Nikolas Dietis

UTAS Home Doctor Nikolas Dietis

Nikolas Dietis

Adjunct Senior Lecturer

Room 4007, Fourth Floor, Pharmacy, Sandy Bay Campus

Dr Nikolas Dietis is a Lecturer in Pharmacological Sciences at the Division of Pharmacy, School of Medicine. He is interested in the role of different GPCRs in a range of neuropharmacological areas, with a focus on opioid pharmacology and its role in both chronic pain and non-analgesic pathology.

Nikolas teaches Pharmacology and coordinates its delivery in undergraduate and postgraduate student cohorts within the School. He is particularly interested in developing new methods of effective delivery of pharmacology coent that promotes understanding and learning.

Nikolas is also actively involved in the delivery of Pharmacology as a Program Coordinator in the Medicines Australia's Continuing Education Programs (CEP).

Career summary


  • PhD, University of Leicester, UK, 2012. Strategies To Reduce Morphine Tolerance In Cancer: Evaluation Of The Bifunctional Opioid UFP-505
  • MRes, Nottingham Trent University, UK, 2008. Cloning, expression and pharmacological characterisation of the κ-δ opioid heterodimer
  • BSc (Hons), Nottingham Trent University, UK, 2007. Neuronal differentiation of embryonic stem cells and their therapeutic application in regenerative neuroscience
  • BSc, University of Portsmouth, UK, 2002. Factors affecting the encapsulation of heparin in liposomes
  • Diploma, Vakalis Foundation College, Greece, 1997. Fullerenes as potential therapeutic drug carriers

Languages (other than English)

  • English
  • Greek


Dr Dietis graduated in 2002 from the University of Portsmouth (UK) with a Bachelors in Pharmacology and from Nottingham Trent University (UK) with a Bachelors (Hons) in Neuropharmacology. He has obtained his Masters by Research in Applied Biosciences (Neuroscience) from Nottingham Trent's Natural Sciences Research Centre, working on the constitutive dimerization of opioid receptors. He then worked for five years in the pharmaceutical industry sector and three years in secondary education as a Science teacher for A-levels in the UK. His doctoral training took place at the University of Leicester (UK) were he graduated with a PhD in Pharmacology, working on the pharmacological characterisation of novel bifunctional opioids as potential drugs for cancer pain. In 2012 he joined the University of Tasmania as a Lecturer in Pharmacological Sciences at the Pharmacy Division, School of Medicine.

Research Themes

Nikolas' research aligns to the University's research theme of Better Health. His general research interests include the functional role of G protein-coupled receptors' (GPCR) trafficking and communication, in the development and progress of chronic diseases. Particular interests include the role of opioid receptor dimerisation, desensitisation and internalisation in the manifestation of chronic diseases & conditions (i.e. neuropathic pain, cancer pain, major depressive disorder, stress-induced analgesia, neurodegeneration, substance addiction and drug tolerance) and how these processes are affected by certain drugs or have an impact on certain drug treatments.

The clinical use of opioids, like morphine, is seriously limited by its frequent side effects (i.e. respiratory depression, constipation, sedation, addiction). Most importantly, morphine has a quick onset of tolerance, manifested by a reduction in pain relief that forces clinicians to administer increasing doses which inevitably produce more side effects. Dr Dietis' group focuses on this problem by studying the molecular mechanisms of tolerance and searches for novel strategies that avert opioid tolerance development. In addition, the diversity of tissues expressing opioid receptors and the lack of current knowledge on the role of these receptors in the health & disease opens unexplored opportunities for novel treatments.

In 2012, Nikolas established the Opioid Pharmacology Research Group at the Division of Pharmacy aiming to address the different research questions on the role of opioid receptors in these diverse systems. The main areas that are currently being developed, but not limited to, are:

  • Opioid analgesia in chronic and cancer pain
  • The role of opioids on insulin production
  • The anticancer properties of opioids
  • The role of opioid receptor dimerization in disease


Professional practice

  • International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP)
  • British Pharmacological Society (BPS)
  • British Neuroscience Association (BNA)
  • Society for Neuroscience (SfN)
  • Greek Society of Pharmacology (GSP)
  • Hellenic Society for Neuroscience (HSN)

Administrative expertise

Contributions to:

  • Degree accreditation activities
  • Benchmarking
  • Unit coordination
  • Peer-reviewing of online courses


Pharmacology, Neuroscience

Teaching expertise

Nikolas' teaching philosophy revolves around the facilitation of student understanding regarding the application of basic scientific principles into clinical practice. It incorporates pedagogical approaches in two areas:

1) Multidimensional content delivery, based on the rationalization of pharmacological concepts and simplification of complex principles using explanatory audio-visual paradigms and web-based application examples. This delivery method has been shown to outmatch the traditional model of 'dry'-content presentation in class. Teaching and learning activities are designed based on the Biggs' Principles of Constructive Alignment using the hierarchy of Bloom's Taxonomy.

2) Student-development, where students are not just passive receivers that reproduce knowledge, but play an active role in their own learning, shaping critical thinking, extracting information and applying methods of self-directed learning. The implementation and management of mentoring activities, discussion forums and diverse student-feedback systems that promote effective learning play a critical role.

Teaching responsibility

Dr Dietis teaches and co-ordinates a number of Pharmacology units within the Bachelor of Pharmacy and Bachelor of Medical Research, as well as postgraduate programs in the Master of Pharmaceutical Science:

  • Pharmacology: CSA230, CSA232, CSA233, CSA234, CSA235, CSA308, CSA309

His teaching philosophy revolves around the simplification and rationalisation of complex scientific concepts, in order to facilitate deep understanding and active learning.

Dr Dietis was awarded a Teaching Merit certificate by the University of Tasmania in 2013. Dr Dietis has also obtained the Applying the Quality Matters Rubric certification for quality-reviewing of online courses and is currently the Program Coordinator for the online course/ Introduction to Pharmacology of the Medicines Australia's Continuing Education Programs (CEP). He is also actively involved in the program's development and online teaching.

Research Appointments

  • Editorial Board Member at the UK Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biosciences (UKJPB)

View more on Dr Nikolas Dietis in WARP


Clinical Areas of Research:

  • Opioids in chronic pain, cancer pain and neuropathic pain
  • Pharmacological management of chronic anxiety and major depressive disorder
  • Physical dependence and psychological addiction to opioids
  • Novel pharmacological treatments in neurodegenerative diseases

Experimental Areas of Research:

  • Mechanisms of opioid-induced development of analgesic tolerance
  • Non-analgesic effects of opioids
  • Molecular pharmacology & cell signalling of novel opioids
  • Trafficking and regulation of opioid receptors in neurogenic conditions
  • Behavioural pharmacology of novel psychoactive drugs


  • Teaching Merit Certificate (2015): In recognition of teaching excellence using an outcomes-based approach to student learning; University of Tasmania, Australia
  • «Pharmacy King» Award (2014): As an expression of appreciation from the Tasmanian Association of Pharmacy Students (TAPS) for an outstanding contribution to the Division of Pharmacy over the past year and as a recognition of teaching excellence, voted by the students of the Division; University of Tasmania, Australia
  • Teaching Merit Certificate (2014): For implementing a teaching strategy that ensures quality delivery and promotes subject understanding; University of Tasmania, Australia
  • Honorary Chair (2011):  East Midlands University Association's Conference of Postgraduate Research; Graduate Dean, University of Leicester, UK
  • Finalist Award (2011): Research Poster presentation; Festival of Postgraduate Research, University of Leicester, UK
  • Regional Finalist Award (2010): Research Poster presentation; University of Leicester, UK
  • Schachter Award (2010): Continuing professional development during doctoral studies; British Pharmacological Society
  • i-Qube Award (2010): Best Research Poster; Festival of Postgraduate Research, University of Leicester, UK
  • Bain Memorial Bursary Fund Award (2009): Young Researcher Award; British Pharmacological Society

Current projects

Current major projects focus on the behavioural mapping of opioid-induced tolerance, the antidepressant effect of opioids in a learned-helplessness model, the screening of novel opioids as anticancer agents, and in vitro studies of opioid-receptor dimerization using luciferase-based models.

Research Fields

  • Basic Pharmacology (111501)
  • Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences (111599)
  • Medical and Health Sciences (119999)
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (111502)
  • Health Information Systems (incl. Surveillance) (111711)
  • Clinical Sciences (110399)
  • Higher Education (130103)
  • Central Nervous System (110903)
  • Pharmaceutical Sciences (111504)
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine and Treatments (110404)
  • Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology) (170101)

Research Impact

  • Human Pharmaceutical Products (860899)
  • Human Pharmaceutical Treatments (e.g. Antibiotics) (860803)
  • Nervous System and Disorders (920111)
  • Cancer and Related Disorders (920102)
  • Nursing (920210)
  • Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences (970111)
  • Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) (920599)
  • Management of Education and Training Systems (930502)
  • Digestive System Disorders (920105)
  • Neurodegenerative Disorders Related to Ageing (920112)


Total publications


Highlighted publications

(1 outputs)
2012Journal ArticleDietis ND, McDonald J, Molinari S, Calo G, Guerrini R, et al., 'Pharmacological characterization of the bifunctional opioid ligand H-Dmt-Tic-Gly-NH-Bzl (UFP-505)', British Journal of Anaesthesia, 108, (2) pp. 262-270. ISSN 0007-0912 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1093/bja/aer377 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3


Journal Article

(5 outputs)
2015Yin X, Guven N, Dietis N, 'Opioids in depression: not quite there yet', UK Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biosciences, 3, (1) pp. 12-17. ISSN 2347-9442 (2015) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Yin X; Guven N

2014Paul A, Guven N, Dietis N, 'Opioid receptor-dependent modulation of insulin-release in pancreatic beta-cells', UK Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biosciences, 2, (6) pp. 22-31. ISSN 2347-9442 (2014) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Guven N

2012Dietis ND, McDonald J, Molinari S, Calo G, Guerrini R, et al., 'Pharmacological characterization of the bifunctional opioid ligand H-Dmt-Tic-Gly-NH-Bzl (UFP-505)', British Journal of Anaesthesia, 108, (2) pp. 262-270. ISSN 0007-0912 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1093/bja/aer377 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3


2011Dietis ND, 'The domino that 'downgrades' the PhD', Pharmacology Matters, (December) pp. 17-19. ISSN 1757-8175 (2011) [Professional, Non Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

2011Dietis ND, Longden T, 'Cognitive enhancers:a 'smart' choice?', Pharmacology Matters, (2011) pp. 9-10. ISSN 1757-8175 (2011) [Professional, Non Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]


(4 outputs)
2015Yin X, Guven N, Dietis N, 'Opioids in Depression: Not Quite There Yet', UK Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biosciences, 3, (1) pp. 12-17. ISSN 2347-9442 (2015) [Substantial Review]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Yin X; Guven N

2011Dietis ND, Rowbotham DJ, Lambert DG, 'Controlling cancer pain: Is morphine the best we can do?', Trends in anaesthesia and critical care, 1 pp. 227-229. ISSN 2210-8467 (2011) [Substantial Review]

DOI: 10.1016/j.tacc.2011.08.003 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1


2011Dietis ND, Rowbotham DJ, Lambert DG, 'Opioid receptor subtypes: fact or artifact?', British Journal of Anaesthesia, 107, (1) pp. 8-18. ISSN 0007-0912 (2011) [Substantial Review]

DOI: 10.1093/bja/aer115 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 49Web of Science - 44


2009Dietis ND, Guerrini R, Calo G, Salvadori s, Rowbotham DJ, et al., 'Simultaneous targeting of multiple opioid receptors: a strategy to improve side-effect profile', British Journal of Anaesthesia, 103, (1) pp. 38-49. ISSN 1471-6771 (2009) [Substantial Review]

DOI: 10.1093/bja/aep129 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 81


Conference Publication

(4 outputs)
2014Mather C, Cummings E, Nichols L, Douglas T, Dietis N, et al., 'Any place to engage students in learning and teaching in Health: The role of social media', Teaching Matters 2014, 2-3 December, Newnham Campus, University of Tasmania, Launceston (2014) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Mather C; Cummings E; Nichols L; Douglas T; Grieve R; Harris D; Kemp N; Williams A-M

2012Dietis ND, Niwa H, Ruggieri V, Filaferro M, Novi C, et al., 'Antinociceptive effects of the bifunctional opioid UFP-505', Summer Scientific Meeting of the Anaesthetic Research Society, 30 June - 1 July, Liverpool Medical Institution Liverpool UK, pp. 5. (2012) [Conference Extract]

[eCite] [Details]

2011Tose R, Dietis ND, McDonald J, Guerrini R, Calo G, et al., 'Characterization of the bifunctional opioid UFP505', British Journal of Anaesthesia, July 1-2 2010, Nottingham, pp. 728-729. (2011) [Refereed Conference Paper]

DOI: 10.1093/bja/aeq193 [eCite] [Details]


2006Dietis ND, 'Heparin activity-assay of liposomal formulations', Proceedings of the 4th Panhellenic Conference of the Greek Society of Pharmacology, 1 9 - 20 May 2006, Patras, Greece, pp. 150-152. ISSN 1011-6583 (2006) [Non Refereed Conference Paper]

[eCite] [Details]


(1 outputs)
2012Dietis ND, 'Strategies to Reduce Morphine Tolerance in Cancer: Evaluation of the Bifunctional Opioid UFP-505' (2012) [PhD]

[eCite] [Details]

Other Public Output

(1 outputs)
2014Dietis ND, 'Tasmanian researchers hoping to turn the tables on opioid side effects', ABC, 936 ABC Hobart, 26 November 2014 (2014) [Media Interview]

[eCite] [Details]

Grants & Funding

Funding Summary

Number of grants


Total funding



Fucoidan and cell cycle regulation (2015 - 2016)$54,917
This project involves industry interaction to develop Marinova's fucoidan extract against cancer.
Marinova Pty Ltd ($54,917)
Contract Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Guven N; Dietis ND; Davis E
2015 - 2016
Bi-functional opioids as a novel cancer treatment (2015)$6,567
The aim of our study is to assess the anticancer effect of our 10 novel opioid drugs in six different intestinal cancer cell lines and compare them with oxaliplatin and irinotecan. The particular objectives of the study are:1. To evaluate the effect of our novel drugs on intestinal cancer cell viability, growth, proliferation and ability to form colonies.2. To explore the molecular mechanisms of the anticancer activity of our novel drugs.
Cancer Council of Tasmania ($6,567)
Grant-Cancer Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Dietis ND; Liu JJ; Holloway AF; Guven N
Development of a novel and innovative drug candidate for the treatment of cancer pain (2013)$12,300
University of Tasmania ($12,300)
Grant-Research Enhancement (REGS)
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Dietis ND

Research Supervision

Dr Dietis is the main supervisor to a diverse group of Honours, Masters and Doctorate students. The Opioid Pharmacology Research Group involves the participation of two co-supervisors from the Faculty of Health.




PhDIn Vivo Investigation of Behavioural Influence of Six Bifunctional Opioid Ligands2013
PhDAnalgesic and Pharmacokinetic Studies of the Bifunctional Opioid UFP-5052014