About The PI
Ray Soccio is a physician-scientist who focuses on the transcriptional regulation of metabolism. Throughout his career, he has studied transcriptional pathways important in hepatic lipid and cholesterol homeostasis, and in fat cell differentiation and function. As an endocrinologist, his clinical experience informs his research questions, leading to basic and translational studies including relevant drugs, human genetics, or patient samples.
Ray first studied transcription in his undergraduate research at Harvard, earning a bachelor’s in biochemical sciences in 1997, with highest honors and election to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He went on to New York City and the Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program, where he earned his PhD in 2004 and MD and in 2005. As a graduate student in Dr. Jan Breslow’s lab at Rockefeller University, Ray identified and characterized the gene regulation for a novel group of intracellular cholesterol transport proteins, related to the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) but with distinct roles. In medical school, Ray earned the highest scholastic honor at Weill-Cornell Medical College, the John Metcalf Polk prize, as well as early election to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society.
For subsequent training, Ray came to the University of Pennsylvania for residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. In 2008, Ray started postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Mitchell Lazar, focusing on the adipocyte master regulator transcription factor PPARγ. His initial studies revealed a surprising divergence in genome-wide PPARγ sites between human and mouse adipocytes, despite regulation of similar gene targets in lipid metabolism. His main work was on regulatory variation that naturally exists among individuals in the same species. He showed that non-coding variants could determine PPARγ binding and gene regulation, and underlie individual genetic differences in drug response and disease risk. He also identified variation in PPARγ genome-wide binding due to changes in environment, specifically diet-induced obesity in mice. Based on these contributions to the burgeoning field of regulatory genetic variation, Ray was promoted to instructor in 2012 and assistant professor on the tenure track in 2016, starting his independent laboratory.
The Soccio lab has focused on genetic variation affecting gene regulation by the nuclear receptor PPARα, which is a master regulator of the liver’s response to fasting, a drug target for dyslipidemia, and a candidate for a role in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Dr. Soccio also directs the Human Metabolic Tissue Bank, which procures, stores, and distributes human fat biopsies obtained from consented surgical patients. Dr. Soccio sees patients at the Penn Metabolic Medicine Clinic, focused on obesity and its metabolic complications. He is involved in education of undergraduates, medical and graduate students, and residents, and he directs basic and translational science education for the endocrinology fellows.