Li Laboratory Research


We are sharing COVID-19-related plasmids with the scientific community through Addgene.


We study the structural and molecular mechanisms of human diseases including virus infections, cancer and other human diseases.

Our main line of research examines the invasion mechanisms of viruses. We investigate the structures and functions of virus-surface proteins that mediate receptor recognition and cell entry of viruses.

Our other line of research explores the structural and molecular mechanisms of cancer and other human diseases. Specifically, we investigate the structures and functions of human-cell-surface proteins that are critical for disease mechanisms.

By conducting these structural and functional studies, we aim to develop innovative preventive and therapeutic strategies for treating human diseases.

Our research tools include X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, protein biochemistry, vaccine design and drug discovery.


Professor Li is a leading researcher in the coronavirus entry field. He has done pioneering work on the receptor recognition and cell entry of SARS-CoV-2 (which caused COVID-19), SARS-CoV-1 (which caused the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic), and other coronaviruses. His group has determined many structures of coronavirus invasion proteins and discovered the molecular events that lead to coronavirus entry into host cells. His research has been one of the major driving forces behind what we now know about receptor recognition and cell entry of coronaviruses. Moreover, he has created structure-based strategies for developing vaccines and therapeutics. His research provides foundational knowledge for the field of coronaviruses.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Professor Li's group were the first to determine key molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2, including its receptor recognition, cell entry, immune evasion, and potential animal origins. These findings laid the molecular foundations that have guided the global effort against COVID-19.

Currently, Professor Li and his team are working on the development of innovative therapeutics to combat COVID-19, as well as improving the drug discovery process. In the long term, he aims to apply the scientific discoveries he has made in the field of coronaviruses to the treatment of other viral infections and human diseases.

U researchers make key COVID-19 virus discoveries

Structure, Function, and Evolution of Coronavirus Spike Proteins

Receptor Recognition Mechanisms of Coronaviruses: a Decade of Structural Studies

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