Dr. Fang Li Investigates the Animal Origin of COVID-19/SARS-Cov-2 (Coronavirus) and How the Virus Binds to Human Cells

April 13, 2020
COVID-19, Coronavirus

   VBS Associate Professor, Fang Li has been a pioneer investigator of animal origins and cross-species transmissions of SARS and MERS coronaviruses. Dr. Li and his research team recently published the paper, "Structural basis of receptor recognition by SARS-CoV-2," in Nature. This paper analyzes the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus which has recently emerged and has resulted in a worldwide pandemic.

   Dr. Li has developed a groundbreaking x-ray crystallography method of structural biology at atomic resolution to map out the 3D structure of a protein on SARS-CoV-2 that binds to its human receptor. This method allows researchers to identify key mutations that potentially enabled the animal to human transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This 3D structure also allows researchers to map out important binding sites providing a blueprint for developing new antibody drugs to target those sites.

   Additional members of Dr. Li's VBS research team include Jian Shang, Gang Ye, Yushun Wan, Chuming Luo, Qibin Geng, and Ashley Auerbach. Dr. Li also credits researchers from the U of MN, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics at the Medical School. This study was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

   This research paper has also been featured in the UMN Research Brief, the College of Veterinary Medicine homepage, as well as other various social media sites.