Ray Zuo, MD joined Michigan Medicine on November 1, 2019 as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Division of Rheumatology and is working on the Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS) Program with Dr. Jason Knight's lab.
Tell us something about yourself and your career goals?
I am a rheumatologist and a clinical and translational researcher who is especially interested in APS. My overarching career goal is to become an independent clinical and translational investigator with a focus on APS. I was fortunate to receive training in clinical research and gain experience in basic science, translational research, and team science during my fellowship and junior faculty years at UT Southwestern Medical Center. I am looking forward to continuing my career development guided by a world-class mentoring committee here at the University of Michigan.
Where did you receive your clinical and research training and how did you decide on a career in the field of rheumatology and APS research?
I received my MD from Ross University School of Medicine and completed an Internal Medicine residency at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). During my residency, I worked with Dr. Silvia Pierangeli, who was a world-renowned APS researcher. My time spent in her lab inspired me to pursue further training in rheumatology and an academic career in APS research.
I then went to UT Southwestern for my clinical rheumatology fellowship and continued my research in APS under the mentorship of Dr. David Karp. I completed my clinical fellowship training in 2016 and was selected as one of the recipients of an NIH-sponsored institutional training grant (CTSA Clinical Scholar) to continue my research preparation. I graduated from the Clinical Scholar program with a Master’s degree in May 2018.
I also recently secured an investigator-initiated award from Pfizer to study the population epidemiology of, and identify “second hit” risks for, antiphospholipid syndrome in the Dallas Heart and Aging Study.
What is the most interesting project you are currently working on and what do you hope its impact will be?
My recent collaboration with Dr. Jason Knight has uncovered a new class of autoantibodies — anti-NET antibodies — in patients with primary APS. Interestingly, these anti-NET antibodies do not appear to correlate with traditional antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL). We are now pursuing the hypothesis that anti-NET antibodies may identify subgroups of APS patients with particular clinical manifestations and possibly a particularly severe phenotype. Overall, I am very interested in identifying clinically-actionable biomarkers that will more effectively risk-stratify both aPL carriers and patients with APS — with the goal of earlier intervention and improved outcomes.
What are your career highlights and accomplishments?
Over the last ten years, I have had the opportunity to work on many interesting projects:
- Prior to medical school, I participated in research projects investigating gene therapy to treat cystic fibrosis and hemophilia in large animal models.
- While at UTMB, I conducted the largest clinical performance evaluation of a novel antiphospholipid assay (APhL ELISA assay) in over 1,000 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.
- At UT Southwestern, I worked with my colleagues in the Division of Hematology to create a multidisciplinary APS clinic that provided a team approach to the care of APS patients.
- In collaboration with the Division of Rheumatology at Peking University Health Science Center, I helped develop one of the largest Chinese APS cohorts and then investigated the clinical and epidemiological “second hit” risks for thrombosis and pregnancy morbidity among asymptomatic aPL carriers in this cohort (as well as my own cohort at UT Southwestern).
- I collaborated with Dr. Ayesha Zia (a faculty member in Pediatric Hematology at UT Southwestern) and mentored Dr. Elizabeth Sloan (pediatric rheumatology fellow at UT Southwestern) to study the clinical significance of non-criteria aPL among pediatric thrombophilia patients.
- I was actively involved in fellowship education as a junior faculty member at UT Southwestern, creating a disease-based immunology core curriculum for fellows and residents, and received a faculty teaching award for these efforts.
What is your vision for the U-M Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS) Program?
My goal is to work with Dr. Knight to make the University of Michigan the leading institution in the world for APS clinical care, research, and innovation. In order to achieve this goal, we will build a multidisciplinary APS research infrastructure and apply a team-science approach via local, national, and international collaborations. We plan to work with colleagues specializing in vascular medicine, cardiology, hematology, obstetrics, laboratory medicine, biochemistry, pediatric hematology, and pediatric rheumatology in pursuit of multiple funded APS research projects and the leveraging of shared resources including biospecimens.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
I enjoy swimming, jogging, spending time with my family, and playing with our 4-year-old beagle, Charlie Clifford Zuo.