Our tribute to Vanessa Li, founder of the crowdfund


On February the 4th 2015 our dear friend and colleague Vanessa Li passed away. There has been a cascade of condolences and messages as this community processes the loss of a person who touched so many people. Vanessa founded this crowdfunding project and this team has worked closely and intensely for over a year. Through all the ups and downs of working in a team trying to achieve something we care about we have got to know each other quite well. We are still in shock over this loss and we miss her.

Just as Vanessa touched our hearts she touched the hearts of the team and researchers at Columbia and many who were connected to the crowdfund in any way.

Vanessa was fearless, passionate, articulate, intelligent, incredibly honest, kind, polite and questioning. She was very determined, funny and witty and a truly lovely person. She would always help with anything even if it was something new to her. Vanessa connected with a phenomenal amount of people. She could type at the speed of light and could find things on the internet at the same speed. She was interested in everybody she came into contact with and cared about many causes.

Vanessa was a true character. She wanted to ‘live life’ and ‘do’ and ‘be useful’. She was highly motivated to do anything to help make that happen and ‘get on with it’ – whether it was through this crowdfunding, supporting this community’s projects or lobbying government.

Vanessa wanted change! She helped make change, while sick – around the fluctuations of the illness and when her body and brain would let her. It was Vanessa who contacted Dr Ian Lipkin when he couldn’t get funding for his sorely-needed research and said “patients can raise the money”. We joined with her to set up and run the crowdfund, and patients and their supporters gave more than $220,000. Vanessa inspired people to get involved.



While we grieve – we search for meaning in the loss of someone we cared so much about, who left our world too young and suffered from an illness that is quite honestly, thoroughly torturous.

Vanessa leaves a legacy that is nothing to do with money. It’s about the doing what’s needed, the connecting, the effort, the community of others in the same boat, the making it happen, and getting on with it – supporting the projects happening in our community and playing whatever part we can, given the limitations of our illness.

This loss galvanises us, makes us feel even more passionate about the things that were the essence of Vanessa. A woman who fought – and fought for us and for hope.

Dearest Vanessa, we hope that your story inspires others to do these things and fires their passion and that your legacy lives on in this vein. We are so incredibly grateful to have known you and we will never ever forget you.

Our hearts are so very much with Vanessa’s family and close friends right now.

Amy, Bob, Klara, Michal, Nico, Russell, Sasha and Simon
The Microbe Discovery Project crowdfund team