The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

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World Class Imaging Scientist, Cancer Scholar Joins University

World Class Imaging Scientist, Cancer Scholar Joins University

Dr. Baowei Fei, an imaging scientist and cancer scholar whose work has transformed medical imaging and intervention for cancer care, recently joined the UT Dallas Department of Bioengineering.

Fei, a professor of bioengineering, was previously an associate professor with tenure at Emory University School of Medicine and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). He is a leader in quantitative imaging and image-guided intervention. His work allows medical physicians to more precisely pinpoint cancer cells for earlier diagnosis and treatment, which can lead to improved patient care and survival rates.

“Dr. Fei is a world class researcher in the area of image-guided intervention,” said Dr. Robert Rennaker, Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair in Bioengineering and head of the Department of Bioengineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Our ability to recruit faculty of his caliber is what will propel UT Dallas to national prominence as we strengthen our partnership with UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Our goal of becoming one of the premier research institutions in the U.S. will only happen if we continue to build our medical research program,” said Rennaker, also director of the Texas Biomedical Device Center. “Dr. Fei’s leadership in this area will, no doubt, help UT Dallas reach this lofty and worthy goal.”

Fei’s career includes advanced training and experience in biomedical engineering, computer science, radiology and patient care to create quantitative bioimaging technology and devices that benefit human health, specifically in the areas of cancers of the prostate, head and neck, and heart disease.

Fei’s group developed a technology system called molecular imaging directed, 3D ultrasound guided biopsy, which improved upon 2D systems by allowing for earlier detection of potentially cancer cells in the prostate. This technology fits into his larger goal of supporting precision medicine – a model that customizes healthcare to the individual patient.

“Imaging technology is a top advance in healthcare over the last century and is a driving force in precision medicine,” Fei said. “By quantifying the size and activity of cellular, molecular and metabolic happenings, the better we can distinguish tissue that is normal from malignancy in an accurate, precise and consistent manner. With new imaging technology, then we can detect cellular and molecular disease early, before diseases progress to lethal stages, improving quality of life, lowering healthcare costs and most importantly, saving lives.”

One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. The current 2D ultrasound imaging technology is not always sensitive enough to pinpoint exactly where the cancers cells are in the organ. Because the prostate is made of soft, deformable tissue, this can require multiple biopsies to find the cells, costing additional time, money and stress.

From 2013 – 2016, Fei led the first clinical trial on positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound fusion targeted biopsy of the prostate. The technology first injected molecules called PET imaging tracer into the patient suspected of having prostate cancer to find the tumor. The PET images were then combined with real-time 3D ultrasound imaging to guide a biopsy needle to the lesion target. Fei presented the clinical results at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging in 2017. His PET/ultrasound fusion targeted biopsy approach achieved a five-time higher positivity rate than the current 2D ultrasound guided biopsy, and caught the attention of outside media.

Among funding projects, Fei is currently is a principal investigator of three National Institutes of Health Research (NIH R01) Project Grants with the total funding of $6.8 million. Those projects include further advancements of the imaging guided biopsy system; working with industry to more widely disseminate the imaging technology; and using imaging systems in cardiac procedures.

Other research Fei’s group is bringing to UT Dallas is using hyperspectral imaging, a technology used by NASA that detects material or chemical substance by using the information from hundreds of electromagnetic spectrum wavelengths for biological and medical applications, such as real-time detection of cancer cells during surgery for complete resection of the tumor.

For his work, Fei has received numerous honors and awards, including the Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award from the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Governor of Georgia; the Distinguished Investigator Award from the Academy for Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Research; the 1% Faculty Award from Emory University School of Medicine; the Young Investigator Award from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging; and the Department of Defense Post-Doctoral Traineeship Award. Fei serves as an editor or an editorial board member for multiple peer-reviewed academic journals. From 2017 – 2020, Fei serves as the Conference Chair for the International Conference on SPIE (Society for Optics and Photonics) Medical Imaging – Image-Guided Procedures, Robotics Interventions, and Modeling.

After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University, Fei earned his first doctoral degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in biomedical engineering. He then earned a master’s of science degree in computing and information science and his second doctoral degree in systems engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

He then joined the faculty of Emory University School of Medicine Department of Radiology and Imaging Science and the joint Department of Biomedical Engineering between Emory University and Georgia Tech. He was also a faculty member in the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and Georgia Tech’s Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Program.

Fei worked with clinicians and patients since his training at Case Western. At Emory University, he had research labs in both the academic facilities and in the hospitals where patients were being treated

“In our research and clinical trial at Emory University, when patients came to see the urologist for targeted biopsy of the prostate, I was able to be there with them from the beginning of their care until their end,” he said. “I would get to know the patients and sometimes their families. These experiences stoked my passion for quantitative bioimaging and image-guided intervention, because you can really see that the technology we created actually helped save lives.”

UT Dallas, the Jonsson School and specifically the Department of Bioengineering were attractive to Fei because of the fast growth of the Department and whole University; because of the successful working relationship with UT Southwestern Medical Center; and because of the many excellent students and unique opportunities within the University.

Fei was inspired by a speech of University President Dr. Richard C. Benson that Fei paraphrases: “ ‘We are still giving shape to this superb University, defining purpose and creating tradition that will last for 100 years and more. Put simply: you are founders,’ ” Fei continued. “So each of us is a founder, and I am honored to be part of this great team of the fast-growing University.

“As a biomedical engineer who has worked in clinical settings for more than a decade, I am passionate to bridge the interdisciplinary programs in order to educate our students and bring new technologies to improve human health.”

Dr. Baowei Fei

Title

Professor of Bioengineering

Research Interests

Biomedical imaging; image-guided intervention; translational imaging; machine learning and artificial intelligence; cancer research; neurodegenerative disorders; cardiovascular diseases

Previously

Associate Professor with tenure at the Emory University School of Medicine; and Georgia Institute of Technology

Education

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University; first doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University; master’s degree in computing and information science from Case Western Reserve University; second doctorate degree in systems engineering from Case Western.


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