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Sean Davis to Lead Health Data Science and AI Efforts for CU Cancer Center

The National Cancer Institute veteran will help build communities that advance the use of data science and advanced analytics.

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Written by Greg Glasgow on December 30, 2020

A 13-year veteran of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is coming to the University of Colorado Cancer Center to help lead efforts to develop and apply data science and artificial intelligence and methods to advance research and improve clinical practice.

Sean Davis, MD, PhD, who currently serves as a senior associate scientist at the NCI, will serve as the new associate director for informatics and data science at the Cancer Center and as professor in the Department of Medicine in the Divisions of Medical Oncology and Hematology. Davis will also become the inaugural Rifkin and Bennis Endowed Chair in Cancer Bioinformatics, made possible by a generous gift from the Rifkin Foundation.

“Biomedical research and its clinical translation are now data-intensive efforts. Identifying connections within and between datasets is key to success in precision medicine, improving health and understanding disease,” Davis says. “The rapid advancements we have made in generating and collecting research and clinical data have led to new opportunities and challenges for researchers and patients alike.”

Transforming lives with AI

Davis, who will join the newly formed Center for Health AI at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is a pediatric oncologist with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton, a PhD in human genetics from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and an MD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Prior to the NCI, he was a fellow at the National Human Genome Research Institute and at Johns Hopkins University.

“Dr. Davis brings expertise building communities at the intersection of data science and cancer research from the National Cancer Institute, where he has been named a recipient of the National Institute of Health Director’s Award multiple times,” says Casey Greene, director of the Center for Health AI. “He is an established leader in developing software that brings data science capabilities to the broader research community. As a member of the Bioconductor Technical Advisory Board since 2008, he has helped to guide a software community that is foundational to biomedical research. At Anschutz, he will bring these skills to bear building a data science and informatics program that enhances ongoing research within the Cancer Center and engages with other data-intensive research programs on campus.”

New collaborations

Davis says that among the draws of the University of Colorado are the dedication to team science and an entrepreneurial spirit across campus that can accelerate innovation in data, analytics and computing to advance research and health care. He looks forward to building and extending partnerships and communities of practice to help achieve this.


In addition to his organizational and research roles, Davis has an ongoing interest in education and training. “One of the things I’m really interested in doing is building out some workforce development that starts potentially even before high school, and thinking strategically about how we can use education to impact data science and the people that end up in it,” he says. “Data science is going to be where the leaders are going to live in the next century, so the better job we can do with training an innovative, diverse and inclusive workforce, the better.”

Topics: Research, Innovation