Leadership and Research Team

Edward P. Amento, M.D., Chairman and Executive Director

Adjunct Clinical Professor of Medicine (Immunology/Rheumatology) and Dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine

Dr. Amento founded MMRI in 1995 to advance the understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of autoimmune and connective tissue diseases and cancer with the goal of fostering the translation of laboratory science to clinical care.

Dr. Amento is currently Adjunct Clinical Professor of Medicine (Immunology/Rheumatology) and Dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is a founder of Connetics Corporation (formerly Connective Therapeutics, Inc.) where he held executive positions and Theracos, Inc. where he served as founding CEO and President (2000-2009). Dr. Amento also serves as a Board member or Scientific Advisory Board member of several privately held biotechnology companies.

Dr. Amento is an internationally recognized expert on the cellular and molecular biology of connective tissue disorders. He is the author or co-author of more than 160 published manuscripts, reviews, chapters and abstracts. Prior to his association with Stanford, he was an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Assistant Physician in the Arthritis Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Amento received his M.D. degree from Albany Medical College and his B.S. degree from Boston College. He was Intern, Resident and Chief Resident in Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, after which he was a Clinical Fellow in Pulmonary Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. He completed his training in rheumatology at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital followed by postdoctoral research fellowships.

Marie T. Berticevich, Director of Operations and Human Resources

Ms. Berticevich is responsible for the administration of the Institutes operations, human resources, and employment. Her professional experience includes over 15 years of Leadership and Research Team in the biotech, high-tech, and retail industries. Ms. Berticevich has demonstrated achievements in managing multiple HR functions; strategic planning, benefits, recruitment and selection, and employee relations. Her broad staff roles have included accounting, investor relations, sales and marketing, and network and facility administration. She received a B.A. in Communications from California State University, Chico and certification in Human Resources Administration from San Jose State University.

Phoebe Wall Howard, Director of Development

Phoebe Wall Howard is Director of Development at the Institute, where she works with faculty, affiliate members and collaborators to develop and implement a capital campaign as well as facilitate donor and sponsor relations.

In addition, Howard is president of the biotech startup Flora Bioscience, Inc., where she negotiates licensing, identifies investors at all stages of company financing, works with FDA consultants on pre-submission protocols and coordinates external communication with the CEO about scientific research and development of diagnostics for women's health.

Prior to MMRI, Howard worked as senior associate director for development at Stanford University ~ supporting faculty and managing a donor portfolio. She coordinated messaging for cardiovascular medicine in the areas of genomics, regeneration, women's heart health and use of technology applications ~ key priorities in a $1 billion campaign. She planned and executed donor events in Silicon Valley and Hawaii.

Howard's career began with print and broadcast media. She covered presidential campaigns, labor unions and corporate fraud for The Des Moines Register. The Iowa Supreme Court cited her coverage when it overhauled foster care policy. Howard covered then-Gov. Bill Clinton for the Arkansas Gazette. While in Arkansas and Iowa, she also worked for People magazine. She is an Associated Press award winner.

Howard earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Jan Rydzewski, Ph.D., Director of Analytical Chemistry and Laboratory Manager

Dr. Rydzewski is Director of the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory. Dr. Rydzewski’s group provides analytical support for scientists within the institute as well as for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Rydzewski’s professional experience includes a broad range of applications in the area of analytical chemistry, including mass spectroscopy, NMR and HPLC. She has over 15 years of industrial experience and has been Analytical Group Leader at Calyx Therapeutics, Inc as well as Staff Scientist in the analytical chemistry department at ALZA Corporation. Dr. Rydzewski received a BS in Chemistry from California State University, Stanislaus. She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry with an emphasis in biophysical chemistry from the University of California Santa Cruz, and completed a postdoctoral fellow in the area of structural biology at The Scripps Research Institute.

Ajith Welihinda, Ph.D., Director, Cell Biology, Head of Cell Signaling and Assay Development

Dr. Welihinda is a highly skilled biochemist and molecular biologist with particular expertise in signal transduction. He has over 18 years of experience in successfully building research programs in academia as well as in biopharmaceutical company settings, including studying novel drug targets and the mechanism of action of candidate drugs in disease areas such as inflammation and diabetes as well as managing molecular biology core facilities. The primary focus of his current research is delineating the mechanism by which modulation of the adenosine receptor may be utilized for therapeutic benefit in inflammatory diseases.

Dr. Welihinda was a postdoctoral fellow in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of the University of Michigan (Department of Biological Chemistry), where he initiated studies on the unfolded protein signaling pathway in Dr. Randal Kaufman’s laboratory that culminated in the cloning of the sensor of unfolded proteins and identifying key signaling molecules downstream of the sensor. He held faculty positions within the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Department of Biological Chemistry) and the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan and has served in senior research positions at Galileo Pharmaceuticals, Sangstat Medical Corporation and Theracos, Inc. He received his Ph.D. from Medical College of Ohio in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and his M.S. in Biology from Dalhousie University. He is the author of 15 peer-reviewed manuscripts.

Cresson Fraley, Ph.D., Investigator

Dr. Fraley has 15 years of post-graduate experience in the fields of biochemistry, enzymology, and bioenergetics as well as microbial genetics and physiology, and molecular biology. His current research is directed to elucidating novel mechanisms of intracellular energy metabolism in various disease states. Dr. Fraley worked for over seven years in the laboratory of Arthur Kornberg, Nobel laureate, in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University and prior to that was a member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University for 11 years.

He received his Ph.D. in Engineering (Microbiology) from Stanford University and continued his postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford. Dr. Fraley is the author of 14 publications.

Jordan Mechanic, Ph.D., Investigator, Neuropharmacology

Dr. Mechanic has a strong background in neuropharmacology with a particular interest in diseases of the central nervous system. His current research areas are related to the regulation of inflammation as it relates to pain, autoimmune diseases and metabolism He has worked in academic as well as in established and emerging pharmaceutical settings, including Theracos, Inc. and Roche. In such roles he has amassed significant expertise in experimental design, statistical analysis, presentation of data and patent development. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

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