The honor acknowledges Li's pioneering discoveries on COVID-19 that have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the virus and have played a key role in the development of vaccines and therapeutics
By Kali Kotoski
Li has been at the forefront of pioneering research on the structural mechanisms of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. His groundbreaking discoveries have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the virus and have played a key role in the development of vaccines and therapeutics. Over the past two decades, his scientific contributions to the field of structural biology of coronaviruses have laid the foundation for our understanding of receptor recognition and cell entry of coronaviruses.
In 2021, the magazine initiated these awards to acknowledge healthcare workers in the Twin Cities who demonstrate innovation, care, dedication, and compassion in their daily work, all with the aim of enhancing human health care.
Li has been recognized in the Medical Research Category for his work on COVID-19. Through his research, he has identified the mechanisms by which the virus recognizes its human receptor, evades human immunity, and hijacks human enzymes to invade cells. These structural mechanisms not only shed light on how the virus was able to spread globally, but also play a crucial role in the development of effective and safe vaccines and therapeutics. In recognition of his contributions to the global effort against the pandemic, Li was listed among the top 500 most impactful scientists in the world in 2022 by a Stanford University study.
“I am deeply honored to be the recipient of the Health Care Hero Award,” said Li. “I am grateful to my students, postdocs, and collaborators for their invaluable contributions, as they all embody the qualities of true heroes.”
Currently, Li and his team are working on developing cell entry inhibitors to combat COVID-19 and other potential pandemic viruses such as Ebola, Zika, and Lassa. Additionally, they are dedicated to innovating the drug discovery process.
Apart from his position as Co-Director of the Midwest AViDD Center, Li also serves as a professor and Endowed Chair in the Department of Pharmacology, and as the Director of the Center for Coronavirus Research (CCR) at the University of Minnesota Medical School.