Wenhui Li was born in Gansu province, China, in 1971. He attended the public elementary and high schools in the town of Yuzhong, Gansu and entered Lanzhou Medical College (now Medical School of Lanzhou University) in 1989, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Medical Sciences (with highest honor) in 1994. He continued his study in the Lanzhou Institute of Biological Studies from 1994 and received his master degree in Immunology in 1997. After worked in the same institute for one year as a research assistant, he went to Beijing and became a Ph.D. student in the Peking Union Medical College & Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998. In 2001 he was awarded the Ph.D. (with great honor) in pathogen biology.
During late 2001 to 2004 he worked as a postdoctoral fellow of molecular virology in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard Medical School. He was appointed as an instructor in the same department in 2004 and worked there for three more years. In late 2007, Wenhui Li joined the National Institute of Biological Sciences (NIBS), Beijing as an assistant investigator.
Wenhui Li’s research interest has been in the field of viral infection and host immunity, in particular the entry mechanisms of viruses. Working under Drs.Michael Farzan and Hyeryun Choe in Boston, in 2003, shortly after the outbreak of SARS-CoV, he discovered that angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a cellular receptor for SARS-CoV. During the past five years, his lab at NIBS Beijing has mainly worked on viral entry of hepatitis B and D virus (HBV, HDV). Recently, his team successfully identified that a multiple transmembrane bile acids transporter (NTCP, sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide), predominantly expressed in liver, is a functional receptor for HBV and HDV.