The director of the Stanford Medicine cyclotron and radiochemistry facility died on Jan. 25. He created novel radiotracers for clinical and research use.
February 21, 2023 - By Emily Moskal
Bin Shen, PhD, a radiochemist at Stanford Medicine, died Jan. 25. He was 43.
Shen directed and managed the Stanford cyclotron and radiochemistry facility, which produces radiotracers — radioactive compounds that can be detected by medical imaging devices — for research and clinical use. Shen was also instrumental in designing a second cyclotron and radiochemistry facility, for which Stanford Medicine had a groundbreaking ceremony at the end of January.
“Dr. Shen was a critical member of our team in radiology, and for him to pass away was a blow to our community,” said Garry Gold, MD, chair of radiology at Stanford Medicine.
Shen — who, with colleagues, developed around 50 novel radiotracers — was involved with all the radiotracers developed at Stanford Medicine during the past 15 years.
“Dr. Shen had an outsized impact on his field, on Stanford Medicine’s mission, and on so many within our community as a colleague and a mentor,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “His enthusiasm, expertise and grace will be sorely missed.”
Some of the radiotracers Shen developed image patients’ source of pain by highlighting the affected pain receptors in nerves, allowing clinicians to locate and target the area with anti-inflammatory drugs. Another radiotracer he co-developed helps scientists identify the boundaries of brain tumors for more accurate treatment.
Driven by purpose
The cyclotron facility where radiotracers are developed runs 20 hours a day. Staffers start making the doses for patients in the middle of the night to have them ready for morning procedures. They also make doses for research.
The round-the-clock schedule makes the facility a highly stressful place to work, said Gunilla Jacobson, PhD, the technical and strategic director for the cyclotron, who was Shen’s supervisor for five years.
But Shen never seemed to show the stress, said Corinne Beinat, PhD, an assistant professor of radiology, noting that Shen always had a laugh and a smile, even when the work was tough.
“No challenge was too much for him: You could always go to him with a problem, and you would always feel welcome,” Beinat said.
A natural leader
Shen was a rare gem of a person who could maintain the cohesiveness of community in a demanding environment, Gold said.
“Bin was the glue that held the group together because he would handle difficult situations with incredible grace, thoughtfulness and a positive outlook,” Gold said.
His commitment to work through his infectious energy and cheer made Shen a leader to many, according to his colleagues.
“When you have a leader like that, with so much knowledge and empathy, he becomes a trusted person in the lab as the backup, empowering the team,” Jacobson said. “We’re going to miss him as a friend and experienced leader.”
Shen was born May 15, 1979, in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bioengineering from Nanjing University of Technology and a doctorate in organic chemistry from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in Germany. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford, then became a research associate at the cyclotron in 2013. He became the director in 2020.
Outside of work, Shen loved hiking, trips to Monterey, California, watching soccer and playing ball — whether that was basketball, billiards or table tennis. His widow, Monika Perek-Shen, said the teamwork in sports appealed to him.
“He was kind and humble, always looking for the good in people,” said Perek-Shen. “I learned a lot from him. Now that he’s passed, I think a lot about what he taught me and will apply it to my life.”
Perek-Shen said her husband created a peaceful atmosphere wherever he went. He wanted to help everyone, and for that, she’ll be forever grateful, she said.
He was a devoted husband and father to 6-year-old Sophie, whom he taught piano and math, Perek-Shen said.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by his parents, Shen Guangli and Lu Qingnian, who reside in China.
About Stanford Medicine
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