Amrie Grammer, PhD


Amrie is a Translational Immunologist specializing in human Autoimmune Diseases. She trained at UVA, where she earned her BS in Chemistry & MS in Pharmacology as well as UTSW Medical Center at Dallas where she received her PhD in Immunology. Before moving to Charlottesville Virginia to establish AMPEL BioSolutions in the UVA Research Park, Amrie headed up the B Cell Biology Group in the Autoimmunity Branch of NIAMS at the NIH. She specializes in clinical trials, biomarkers, cell-cell interactions & the biochemistry of signaling cascades with expertise in primary lymphocyte biology, flow cytometry, and bioinformatics of gene expression & proteomics. Over the last three years, Amrie has been using her knowledge to reposition drugs for Lupus patients (LRxL STATTM Lupus Drug Repositioning Initiative) and to identify novel therapeutic targets for lupus using meta-analysis of gene expression. She has received numerous awards during her career, including the NIH Director’s Award, “For outstanding research on signaling mechanisms induced by TNF-receptor family members expressed by B cells”. Amrie is a member of Sigma Xi and Sigma Delta Epsilon. She serves as a Chair of the UVA Alumni Board of the professional Chemistry Fraternity, Alpha Chi Sigma. In December 2016, Amrie was elected to the Board of Directors of the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VA Bio).

Peter Lipsky, MD


Peter is a Rheumatologist & Immunologist who immerses himself in basic & clinical research. He received his medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine, completed residency training at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York and his post-doctoral fellowship in NIAID at the NIH. After going to UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Peter rapidly advanced to become a professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology as well as the Director of the Harold C Simmons Arthritis Research Center, Co-Director of the Immunology Graduate Program, and Director of the Rheumatic Disease Division of the Department of Internal Medicine. He entered the new millennium as the Director of the Intramural Research Program & the Autoimmunity Branch of NIAMS at the NIH.

Peter is the co-founder of AMPEL BioSolutions LLC and directs its clinical operations. He is involved in the Lupus Clinical Investigator Network (LuCINTM) of the LRxL STATTM Lupus Drug Repositioning Initiative. Peter has edited several journals including the Journal of Immunology, Nature Reviews Rheumatology and Arthritis Research & Therapy. Peter’s accolades include the Carol Nachman Prize, the American College of Rheumatology Distinguished Investigator Award and the Arthritis Foundation’s prestigious Lee Howley prize.


Kate Vega

Communications Director

Kate graduated from University of California San Diego with a BS in communications in 2003. She has over 10 years of experience in the field of communications with a focus on research communications. Her diverse background includes internal and external communications, event planning, outreach, social media, design, writing, grant writing, and public relations. She most recently moved to Charlottesville from St. Louis where she managed the communications and events for the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability, I-CARES, at Washington University in St. Louis. Kate joined AMPEL in 2015 as the Director of Communications and is currently working on her masters of communication from Johns Hopkins University.

James Skylark-Dittman

Investigative Research Analyst & Scientific Administrative Asst

James Skylark-Dittman graduated in May of 2017 from The University of Virginia. He was awarded a BS in Chemistry with Highest Distinction that was additionally certified by the American Chemical Society. He is an Echols Scholar and Harrison Award Fellow. During his last three years at UVA, he conducted undergraduate thesis research with Dr. Ron Taylor in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, examining the mechanism of trogocytosis following treatment of CLL patients with biologics. James volunteers with several community organizations including the Charlottesville Free Clinic and the Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department. James joined AMPEL BioSolutions in 2016 and works as an Investigative Research Analyst and Scientific Administrative Assistant.


Rebecca Bender, MS

Associate Director of Clinical Operations

Rebecca is an expert in clinical trial design and operations, including resourcing, forecasting, budgeting, protocol development, site monitoring, case report design, data lock procedures, NDA preparation, and FDA approval. Her clinical trial experience of 14 years span phase II to IV studies in a variety of therapeutic areas via pharma sponsors and CROs. Rebecca received her BA in Biology with a minor in Spanish at University of Virginia, and her MS in Molecular Bioscience and Biotechnology from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. She was CCRA certified by the ACRP in 2008. She enjoys working on the edge of technology, to advance clinical therapies and drug development systems and processes. Rebecca is a seasoned leader who brings practical implementation of successful clinical trials, by selecting highly trained and motivated staff, and high-performing investigators. She communicates clearly and has presented at many national clinical meetings. Rebecca joined AMPEL in 2016 as the Associate Director of Clinical Operations.

Bridget Muckian

Investigative Research Analyst of Clinical Operations

Bridget Muckian graduated from the University of Virginia in 2017 with a BA in Biology and a minor in French. She is contemplating a career in biology, medicine or public health. During the summers of her undergraduate years, she worked with Drs. Arun Sharma and Earl Cheng at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine on regenerative tissue research for spina bifida patients. Bridget volunteers her time to medical community development projects locally in Charlottesville through Madison House and in Peru with MEDLIFE. Bridget first joined AMPEL in 2016 as a Clinical Operations Intern to assist in the development of an application for smart phones and watches that can be used in lupus clinical trials for remote patient monitoring and collection of patient reported outcomes. She is also working to develop educational materials for both patients and research coordinators to use in these trials.

Brooke Williams

Investigative Research Analyst of Clinical Operations

Brooke graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in Cognitive Science and a BA in Computer Science in December of 2016. She is proficient in Spanish and American Sign Language. During summers of her undergraduate years, she examined the feasibility of antisense gene therapy for patients with Osteogenesis Imperfecta under the direction of Dr. Rick Carliss and Ms. Kristin Knight (Carilion Research Lab). Additionally, Brooke was a research assistant for UVA’s Program for Anxiety, Cognition and Treatment and wrote software to track mouse movements and cognitive processes during approach-avoidance anxiety scenarios. Most recently, she worked as an eCorp Analyst for Sentara Health system assisting hospital transition of EMRs to the Epic EHR system. Brooke has volunteered with Madison House and Albemarle County public schools. Brooke’s personal interest in autoimmune diseases stems from her father’s rare condition, Stiff Person’s Syndrome. In January 2017, Brooke joined AMPEL’s Clinical Operations Team to assist with planning, execution, and data management of lupus clinical trials. She will also assist with a study examining the effectiveness of Meditation and Mindfulness for patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Claire Dykas

Investigative Research Analyst of Clinical Operations

Claire Dykas graduated from the University of Virginia in May 2017 with a BA in Biology. During her undergraduate years, she worked in the lab of Dr. Michelle Bland on molecular mechanisms of inflammation and insulin signaling that regulate cell growth and metabolism. Specifically, Claire examined the effect of calorically restricted diets on lifespan in drosophila. She gained business experience from her internship with Nobel Capital Financial Research Markets where she assisted in the financial evaluation of biotechnology and healthcare companies by analyzing emerging drug candidates in various stages of drug development. Claire joined AMPEL’s Clinical Operations Team in 2017 to assist with planning and execution of small, proof-of-concept trials testing the efficacy of drugs repositioned into lupus.


Prathyusha Bachali

Bioinformatics of Pathogenic Pathways

Prathyusha Bachali joined AMPEL in 2015 as a Bioinformatician after receiving her Masters Degree in Bioinformatics & Genomics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “Science has always been a miracle to her”. Prathyusha enjoyed studying biology since her childhood and concentrated on Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Immunology as an undergraduate. While at UNC, she was a research assistant in Dr. Anthony Fodor’s laboratory using high-throughput sequencing to examine microbial diversity. Specifically, Prathyusha examined human-associated microbial communities in rural and urban Chinese individuals and their association with the emergence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in infants. Prior to her graduate work, she worked as a Research Associate in GVK Biosciences using Scibase to curate data for GOSTAR, a database containing published and patented inhibitors against most biological targets and their SAR data. Prathyusha enjoys writing well-organized Python scripts and is passionate about achieving novel solutions for bioinformatic questions by applying linear statistical concepts, Bayesian statistics, Hidden Markov Models and machine learning algorithms like SVM (support vector machine). She has experience analyzing Google analytics data and has developed visualizations for the growth of the ecommerce industry using Tableau and d3. Prathyusha’s long-term career overcome bioinformatic challenges and achieve novel solutions to bring precision medicine to the patient community.

Robert Robl

Bioinformatics of Pathogenic Pathways

Rob Robl graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Anchorage with a BS in Molecular Biology and a minor in Immunology. As a member of UAA Honors College, he received the Fran Ulmer Transformative Research Project Award for his thesis examining the role of NF90 in regulating influenza viral polymerase activity. During his early undergraduate years, Rob studied Business, International Relations & Marketing at Brown University before taking time off to found his own IT company specializing in database mangement and website design. Rob received bioinformatics training in the Naional Cancer Institute of the NIH before joining AMPEL in 2014 as a Bioinformatician focusing on pathogenic pathways in SLE. Rob continues to consult for AMPEL while he is pursuing his Medical Degree at St. George’s University.

Nick Geraci, PhD

Bioinformatics of Pathogenic Pathways

Dr. Nick Geraci is an immunologist with diverse backgrounds in autoimmunity, genetic disorders, and infectious diseases. He worked in the Pulmonary Division of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital as a post-bachelor’s research assistant performing in vitro experiments to examine the effectiveness of therapeutics in cystic fibrosis. During his MS degree at Purdue University, he examined the genomics of tick vectors, and went on to Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital to study the immunobiology of dermatomyositis and polymyositis in mouse models as a research associate. He received his PhD from Notre Dame in 2015 in Immunobiology for his work investigating human defense mechanisms to tropical parasites, and did his first post-doc at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he received training in bioinformatics techniques while researching host immune responses to various viral pathogens such as influenza, West Nile, and ebola. He has many accolades, including two graduate fellowships for genomics and global health, two AAI Young Investigator awards for conference presentations, and authored several peer-reviewed scientific journal articles. He joined AMPEL BioSolutions in 2016 as a Post-Doctoral Investigative Research Analyst specializing in Bioinformatics.

Sushma Madamanchi

Bioinformatics of Pathogenic Pathways

Sushma Madamanchi received her MS in Bioinformatics & Genomics from UNC Charlotte in 2015 where she mastered how to develop, evaluate and employ bioinformatics and computational biology applications. While at UNC, Sushma was a research assistant in Dr. Xiuxia Du’s proteomics and metabolomics laboratory analyzing mass spectrometry data. In addition, she worked with Dr. Ann in the WiNGS workshop to analyze RNAseq and ChIP-Seq datasets. Sushma is passionate about the statistical analysis of large biological data sets using R as well as probability, probability distributions and statistical inference concepts. In addition, she is interested in writing well-organized high-level programs in Perl and Python for analysis of DNA and protein files. Sushma joined AMPEL BioSolutions in the summer of 2015 as a Bioinformatician focused on analyzing the pathogenic genomic signature of lupus T cells.

Sean Rouffa

Bioinformatics of Pathogenic Pathways

Sean Rouffa is 3rd year undergraduate student at the University of Virginia pursuing a BS in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Materials Science and Engineering. Since September of 2015, he has been working with Dr. Mete Civelek at UVA’s Center for Public Health Genomics to examine epigenetic, genomic and genetic contributions to metabolic disesases by studying smooth muscle cells. In the summer of 2016, Sean gained experience in GANNT while working for Dr. Steven Huybrechts at Applied Minds, LLC. Sean volunteers his time as a mathematics tutor and swim coach for kids. In addition, he is a Resident Advisor, a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the NeXT (Nano & Emerging Technologies) Club and a member of the water polo team at UVA. He writes in several computer languages inclulding R, MATLAB and Java. Sean joined AMPEL in 2017 as a Bioinformatics Analyst of Pathogenic Pathways to investigate the role of abnormal gene expression in lupus pathogenesis.

Brian Kegerreis

Bioinformatics of Pathogenic Pathways/ Investigative Research Analyst

BBrian Kegerreis graduated from the University of Virginia in 2017 as a Rodman Scholar with a BS in Biomedical Engineering and a BA in Physics. He writes in several computer languages including R and MATLAB. During his undergraduate years, Brian’s work with Dr. Jeffrey Holmes in the Cardiac Biomechanics Group led to an abstract presentation at the Biomedical Engineering Society meeting entitled “Modeling the Effect of Strain-Induced Collagen Damage on Tendon Scar Structure”. His undergraduate capstone project with Dr. Jason Kerrigan in the Center for Applied Biomechanics was focused on remotely monitoring femur bridge plates for signs of failure, and his undergraduate thesis supervised by Dr. Catherine Baritaud dealt with the potential effects of remote monitoring technologies on patient autonomy. Brian joined AMPEL in 2017 as a Bioinformatics Analyst of Pathogenic Pathways to investigate the role of neutrophils in lupus pathogenesis.

Michelle Catalina, PhD

Investigative Research Analyst

Michelle is an immunologist focused on drug development and drug placement. She graduated with a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois and received her PhD in Immunology from UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Michelle’s early work focused on trafficking of T and B cells and the role of homing receptors in the development of an immune response. Later work as an instructor at the University of Massachusetts focused on the immune response to viruses and the development and maintenance of memory CD8 T cells. Additionally, Michelle developed HLA class I tetramer technology while at UMass and was essential for the founding and funding of a core tetramer facility. For two years Michelle served as a research analyst for private biotechnology firms, investigating and advising on drug development opportunities in the field of autoimmunity. In 2013 she became the consulting director of preclinical development for Protalex, a clinical stage biotech company focused on experimental candidates for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Michelle joined AMPEL in 2014 as an Investigative Research Analyst.

Adam Labonte, PhD

Investigative Research Analyst

Adam is an immunologist focused on the role of macrophages in infection and autoimmunity. As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Adam received the honor of being selected to be an Echols Scholar. He graduated in 2011 with a BS in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Throughout his undergraduate years, Adam examined bacterial microbiome genomics under the guidance of Dr. Martin Wu. Adam pursued Immunology in graduate school, receiving an MS in Microbiology in 2012 and a PhD in Immunology in 2016 as part of UVA’s Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology graduate program. Adam’s dissertation work with Dr. Young Hahn examining the role of macrophage polarization in hepatotropic viral infection was supported by the Infectious Disease Training Grant. He is a member of the professional Chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma and has several peer-reviewed publications. Adam joined AMPEL in 2016 as a Post-Doctoral Investigative Research Analyst to examine the role of myeloid cells in systemic lupus erythematosus.

Sarah Heuer

Investigative Research Analyst

Sarah Heuer graduated from The University of Virginia in 2015 with a BS in Biochemistry, a certification from the American Chemical Society, and a minor in Sociology. She is a member of Gamma Phi Beta. During her 2nd, 3rd and 4th years at UVA, she conducted an undergraduate research project in the laboratory of Dr. David Kashatus examining the regulation of mitochondrial dynamics in cancer. Specifically, Sarah studied how a protein downstream of the RAS pathway called RalBP1 is stabilized by nutrient starvation. In the fall of 2014, Sarah was awarded a UVA College Council Scholars Grant for her research. Sarah joined AMPEL BioSolutions in 2015 as an Investigative Research Analyst to use her knowledge of protein pathways to analyze pathogenic pathways in SLE.

Isabella Blanco

Investigative Research Analyst

Isabella Blanco is an undergraduate at the University of Virginia pursuing a BS in Biochemistry and a minor in Latin in the Classics department. Throughout her time at UVA, she has worked with Dr. John Lazo in the Fiske Drug Discovery Laboratory exploring the role of the PTP4A3 phosphatase in colorectal tumorigenesis and tumor angiogenesis. Every semester since 2014, Isabella has been an undergraduate teaching assistant for UVA’s advanced chemical structure lab course. She joined AMPEL in 2016 as an Investigative Research Analyst Intern to use her knowledge of signaling pathways to identify potential drug targets in lupus plasma cells.

Matthew Ryals

Investigative Research Analyst

Matthew Ryals graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia in 2011 with a BS in Biochemistry & BA in Neuroscience. Throughout his time at UVA, he conducted undergraduate research as a Harrison Scholar & was a member of the professional chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. During the summers of his undergraduate years, Matt had laboratory research experiences in the Salamanca Neuroscience Program and at Duke University. Matt graduated from UVA with a Distinguished Majors Thesis. Following graduation, Matt received a Junior Fellowship from the NIH as a Post-Baccalaureate IRTA and then worked in a biology laboratory in UCSD. He has several peer-reviewed publications & has made both oral and poster presentations at scientific meetings. Matt joined AMPEL in 2013 as an Investigative Research Analyst & is currently enrolled at John Hopkins University where he is pursuing a PhD in Pharmacology & Molecular Sciences.


AMPEL BioSolutions and its co-founders are proud members of these organizations: