Anna Li was born at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, the second child of Chinese parents who immigrated to America so that she could be born. Her parents are from Changshu, a small farming village in China, and she used to visit every other year growing up. She would later come full circle and attend Duke University for her undergraduate degree. Inspired by her high school best friend who has cystic fibrosis, she worked on cystic fibrosis research for eleven years, gaining experience in different elements of research, including stem cell therapy, mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, and computational approaches.
After Anna graduated from Duke University with a BS in biology, she spent two years at the University of Washington in Seattle, focusing on mechanisms of antibiotic resistance and bacterial persistence. She started taking more engineering classes and spending more time in the makerspace as a way to create tools to streamline her workflow in lab, and eventually realized she thrived by applying engineering techniques to solve problems in biology and healthcare. For her MD/PhD training, she decided to go to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, choosing Pitt for its well-rounded cystic fibrosis research center and CMU for its world-class engineering training. Anna’s experiences as a patient herself and as an advocate for her friends and family with chronic illnesses combined with a growing internal knowledge of how inefficiently the medical system ignited a passion in her to fundamentally change the healthcare system. In her first two years of medical school, she started participating in hackathons, winning first place in the Pitt Challenge Healthcare Hackathon for two years in a row, and spun out one of her hackathon projects into a company as a second-year medical student.
Anna is now the founder and CEO of Korion Health, a health-tech startup with the goal of empowering people in their own healthcare and bridging the gaps in healthcare access and literacy. Korion Health uses ethically designed, accessible technology to increase efficiency and patient empowerment in the medical system, starting with an electronic stethoscope for home heart and lung sound screenings, a guided interface for how to use the stethoscope, machine learning-based diagnostics, and educational tools. They have raised nearly $100,000 in funding so far through venture funds, grants, and competitions, and are currently working on FDA approval.
Currently, Anna is in her graduate school years in the MD/PhD program pursuing a PhD in computational biology, with thesis work focused on developing custom-engineered bacteriophages (viruses that target bacteria) to treat antibiotic-resistant infections, with a focus on Burkholderia infections in cystic fibrosis. She continues to run Korion Health with her team on the side. In her spare time, Anna also cares for stray cats, and she and her golden retriever Winston regularly visit the hospital as a therapy dog team. She is also a part-time actress, science fiction writer, conductor of the Pitt Med Musical Scope and Scalpel, and freelance film soundtrack composer.