Dr. Ting Kai (T. K.) Li was appointed to the position of the Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in November 2002. The NIAAA is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Throughout his distinguished research career, Dr. Li was at the center of advances that have transformed both the way alcoholism is understood and the means of investigating alcohol's effects on the body and brain. A major focus of Dr. Li's research was to characterize the structure and dynamics of the multiple genetic variants of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in the metabolism of ethanol and the differences among individuals in the physiology of these enzymes. Dr. Li also pioneered the development of animal models in which marked differences in the level of voluntary alcohol consumption could be observed, paralleling the same inborn variation seen in human behavior. The development of these animal lines helped cement the once radical notion that alcohol consumption behavior was genetically influenced.
Born in Nanjing, China, Dr. Li earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, his M.D. from Harvard University, and completed his residency training at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston where he was named chief medical resident in 1965. He also conducted research at the Nobel Medical Research and Karolinska Institutes in Stockholm and served as deputy director of the department of biochemistry within the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Dr. Li joined the faculty at Indiana University as professor of medicine and biochemistry in 1971. He subsequently was named the school's John B. Hickam Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and later Distinguished Professor of Medicine. In 1985 he became director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center (IARC) at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he also was the Associate Dean for Research.
Dr. Li authored more than 400 journal articles and book chapters, and was invited to deliver many major lectureships in countries all over the world, and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards for his scientific accomplishments, including the Jellinek Award, the James B. Isaacson Award for Research in Chemical Dependency Diseases and the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Science Award.
Dr. Li also served in many prominent leadership and advisory positions including past President of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), and as a member of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. Dr. Li was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1999 and was also an honorary fellow of the United Kingdom's Society for the Study of Addiction.