Australia-China Alumni Awards

In 2016 Dr Yijia Li (PhD 2014) was awarded the AIDE Education Service—Young Australia China Alumni of the Year Award, in recognition of his dedication to the health and happiness of others through groundbreaking stem cell research.

The Australia China Alumni Awards were established in 2009 to recognise the achievements of Australian university graduates currently based in China.

On arrival in Australia in 2007 for an undergraduate exchange program at the University of Melbourne, Dr Li volunteered with the Chinese Student Association where he recognised an opportunity to help Chinese students assimilate into Australian society and culture. In 2011 he set up the not-for-profit Melbourne Pioneer Volunteers (MPV) program to encourage overseas students to take up volunteer opportunities. The program connects groups of Chinese student volunteers with internship opportunities in Australia.

More than 150,000 Chinese students have studied in Australia since the early 1970s. When Dr Li completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne and returned to China in 2011, he set up the only stem cell bank in Yunnan Province. His plan is for the facility to develop stem cell storage, undertake genome research on stem cells with a focus on cancer, and begin clinical trials of stem cell treatments for cancer.

Dr Li is driven by the potential for science to benefit global health. His new initiative, VMATE (Value Market Advantage Team Evaluation), recruits aspiring researchers in the process of translation so that they can develop new skills and practice what they learn in a real-world situation.

“The VMATE model aims to connect researchers with Chinese investors from the booming biotechnology market who are interested in investing in start-up companies,” Dr Li says.