Dr. Perez joined Duke Ophthalmology in September 2017 as Professor of Ophthalmology. He is an established clinician-scientist investigator in the field of ocular immunology and ocular surface diseases and will be the director of Duke Eye Center's newly launched Ocular Immunology Center. Dr. Perez spends sixty percent of his time in his laboratory researching ocular immunology and transplantation. He complements this with his work as Director of the Ocular Surface Program, evaluating and treating patients with ocular inflammatory diseases and conditions of the anterior segment. In addition to ocular surface, he will also manage patients with uveitis, transplantation and diseases of the eye that also have inflammation.
Dr. Perez's laboratory focuses primarily on researching immunology of corneal transplantation and ocular Graft vs Host Disease (GVHD). Dr. Perez and his colleagues use a mouse model of corneal transplantation and Ocular GVHD that allows for translational research relevant to patients with penetrating keratoplasty and ocular GVHD. Dr. Perez's grant from the National Eye Institute supports his lab's work on the immunological mechanisms involved in high-risk corneal transplant rejection and ocular GVHD.
Members of Dr. Perez's lab have also used the mouse eye as an in vivo imaging platform to study T cell recruitment and in situ activation. The aim of this work is to develop a translational research clinic to study the natural history of disease progression in ocular GVHD and to test the role of cytokines in this process. One of the most innovative aspects of this program is the multidisciplinary team—consisting of scientists from the ophthalmology, basic immunology, and oncology units—whose members work together to comprehensively tackle the research and care of patients with GVHD. The knowledge and development of potential new preventive therapies that is being generated in the laboratory will have a direct translational impact on the care of Duke Eye Center patients with GVHD.
Dr. Perez says that he joined Duke because it provides the perfect environment for clinician scientists to grow and establish translational research programs to cure diseases. Duke’s vision of the future in translational research led to the creation of the center to study inflammatory diseases of the eye. The goal of this unique program is to evaluate and treat patients with ocular inflammatory diseases and in addition to ocular surface, he will manage uveitis, transplantation and diseases of the eye that also have inflammation. In addition, clinician scientists will collect real-time clinical data that will be used in the laboratory to develop pre-clinical models to dissect mechanisms of disease and develop new immune therapies. The components of Dr. Perez's work support his goal to preserve vision through innovation, personalized medicine, and a passion for advancement of ophthalmic science.