Feichen Shen, Ph.D.

  • Associate Consultant, Division of Digital Health Sciences, Department of Health Sciences Research
  • Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science
  • Area of research: Cancer

What sparked your interest in individualized medicine?

I started to lead the direction of individualized medicine efforts in the Department of Health Science Research's Section of Medical Informatics (now the Division of Digital Health Sciences) in 2016. My primary research interest is to accelerate early detection of rare diseases and shorten patients' journeys to successful diagnoses using artificial intelligence (AI) and biomedical informatics.

My colleagues and I found that it is important to incorporate longitudinal clinical features for individuals — for example, deep phenotypic characterizations mined from electronic health records (EHRs) — in order to better tailor the delivery of diagnoses to patients with rare diseases. Nowadays, AI plays an essential role to facilitate the translation of individualized medicine into clinical practice. My computer science skills and Ph.D. research background fit this direction very well.

What is your focus as a Gerstner Family Career Development Award recipient?

My research is focused on leveraging an AI and deep phenotyping framework to repurpose cancer drugs for better cancer screening and treatment.

Drug repurposing provides ways to identify new uses for approved drugs that are outside the scope of the original medical indication. However, it's challenging to make accurate phenotypic characterizations for patients and detect proper associations between genotype and phenotype because the amount of data contained in electronic health records is overwhelming.

Using AI-assisted deep phenotyping creates the possibility of making the necessary associations more quickly and efficiently to provide timely, individualized treatment to patients with cancer.

How will your research improve patient care?

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world. But, survival rates are improving for many patients with different types of cancer, thanks to improvements in cancer screening and cancer treatment.

My research uncovers biomedical and clinical information buried in diverse, large-scale data sources and ties together public biomedical knowledge and patients' clinical data. It has the potential to improve clinical diagnostic decision-making to find out-of-the-box, individualized cancer treatments.

How has the Gerstner Family Career Development Award helped advance your research?

My long-term goal is to become a scientific leader in biomedical informatics with a focus on individualized medicine informatics. The Gerstner Family Career Development Award will allow me to continue developing AI techniques to support the delivery of individualized medicine in practice. This award will also provide me a great opportunity to conduct preliminary studies to better prepare for future extramural grant opportunities.

Why did you choose Mayo Clinic to explore research?

I am very fortunate to be a scientist at Mayo Clinic. From here, I am able to collaborate with a number of world-class biomedical researchers and physicians. In addition, the quantity and quality of EHR data at Mayo is a huge treasure to a data science researcher like me. I really appreciate Mayo Clinic for spending a lot of effort on maintaining the EHR data with such high quality.