Shi Zhengli is a Chinese virologist who researches SARS-like coronaviruses of bat origin. Shi directs the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). In 2017, Zhengli and her colleague Cui Jie discovered that the SARS coronavirus likely originated in a population of cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Xiyang Yi Ethnic Township, Yunnan. She came to prominence in the popular press as “Batwoman” during the COVID-19 pandemic for her work with bat coronaviruses. Shi was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

She graduated from Wuhan University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in genetics  She received her master’s degree from the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 1990, and she received her Ph.D. at the Montpellier 2 University in France in 2000, where she gained fluency in French.

In 2005, Shi Zhengli and colleagues found that bats are the natural reservoir of SARS-like coronaviruses. In 2008 Shi led a research team that studied binding of spike proteins of both natural and chimaeric SARS-like coronaviruses to ACE2 receptors in human, civet, and horseshoe bat cells, to determine the mechanism by which SARS may have spilled over into humans. In 2014, Shi Zhengli collaborated on additional gain-of-function experiments led by Ralph S Baric of the University of North Carolina, which showed that two critical mutations that the MERS coronavirus possesses allow it to bind to the human ACE2 receptor, and that SARS had the potential to re-emerge from coronaviruses circulating in bat populations in the wild. Shi is the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), located in Jiangxia District, Wuhan.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shi and other institute scientists formed an expert group to research Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In February 2020, researchers led by Shi Zhengli published an article in Nature titled, “A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin”, finding that SARS-CoV-2 is in the same family as SARS and that it has 96.2% genome overlap with the most closely related known coronavirus, RaTG13.

Shi is a member of the Virology Committee of the Chinese Society for Microbiology. She is editor-in-chief of Virologica Sinica, the Chinese Journal of Virology, and the Journal of Fishery Sciences of China.

Shi Zhengli Bio

Name: Shi Zhengli

Born:  26 May 1964 (age 57) Xixia County, Henan

Education: Wuhan University, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Montpellier 2 University

Known For: Research into bat viruses

Scientific Career: Virology (Field)

Institutions: Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)