Since the SARS outbreak 18 years ago, a large number of severe acute respiratory syndrome related coronaviruses (SARSr-CoV) have been discovered in their natural reservoir host, bats 1-4. Previous studies indicated that some of those bat SARSr-CoVs have the potential to infect humans 5-7. Here we report the identification and characterization of a novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019) which caused an epidemic of acute respiratory syndrome in humans, in Wuhan, China. The epidemic, started from December 12 th, 2019, has caused 198 laboratory confirmed infections with three fatal cases by January 20 th, 2020. Full-length genome sequences were obtained from five patients at the early stage of the outbreak. They are almost identical to each other and share 79.5% sequence identify to SARS-CoV. Furthermore, it was found that nCoV-2019 is 96% identical at the whole genome level to a bat coronavirus. The pairwise protein sequence analysis of seven conserved non-structural proteins show that this virus belongs to the species of SARSr-CoV. The nCoV-2019 virus was then isolated from the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of a critically ill patient, which can be neutralized by sera from several patients. Importantly, we have confirmed that this novel CoV uses the same cell entry receptor, ACE2, as SARS-CoV.