Dr. Sai Li's main research interest is the cellular entry of enveloped viruses, which in general involves viral attachment to cell, entry by endocytosis and fusion in the cellular compartments. Steps in this process are often targets for antivirals design. To reveal the mechanism in this process, he mainly uses cryo-EM and AFM to study viral protein structures and virus-host interactions.
Li has 7 years experiences in virology. During PhD (University of Goettingen, Germany) he used atomic force microscopy to study Influenza virus assembly and uncoating. Since 2013, his was funded by a MRC research grant to work with Prof. Juha Huiskonen in the Oxford Particle Imaging Centre (OPIC), where his topics in virology expands to Bunyaviridae, Arenaviridae and Pleolipoviridae families. Since 2016, he is funded by ERC to mainly work on Rift Valley Fever virus.
Came from a physical background, Li is also passionate of developing and applying novel techniques in cryo-EM. He developed novel strategies for electron-tomography data collection and processing, which achieved a record resolution on viral glycoprotein structures solved in situ by January, 2016. These efforts include designing and testing novel tomography collection methods, deep customisation of Dynamo for pleomorphic virus structural analysis and application of Jsubtomo. He wrote over 40 functions and plugins for Dynamo and was invited as an instructor for Dynamo workshops since 2015. He also holds the record of solving the smallest protein (60 kDa) by EM with the help of phase plate.
His professional perspective is to become an independent and multidisciplinary structural biologist, combining EM, Biophysical and Molecular Dynamics techniques to illustrate details from molecular to cellular level.