USC Clinical Trials Office

Serving patients, researchers and sponsors by expediting clinical trials for novel and promising therapies

Meet the CTO

By Rocio Maldonado


The Clinical Trials Office is here to help. Meet the people who are working to assist you in opening your clinical trial at USC. Our mission is to work with departments with efficiency, transparency and excellent customer service.

Melissa Archer, J.D., Director, joined the Clinical Trials Office in February 2016. She has specialized in industry sponsored research for the past 6 years of her career and previously served as a Principal Contract Officer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Prior to that, she spent the majority of her career as a medical malpractice and hospital litigation attorney in the Tampa Bay Area. She is a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida and Stetson University College of Law.

Chris Ancheta, Project Specialist, joined the Clinical Trials Office in April 2016. He came to us from UCLA, where he worked as a Research Administrator in the cancer center; focusing on Medicare coverage analysis, budget development/negotiation with industry sponsors, NIH-NCI grants management and post-award for Oncology and HIV/infectious disease clinical trials. Chris will be working closely with Melissa, Director of the CTO, to establish and improve the CTMS workflow, and develop applicable policy and procedures. He is responsible for the triage of study submissions and task management in OnCore.

Amanda Ruelas, Medicare Coverage Analyst, joined the Clinical Trials Office in March 2016.  She has been part of the USC family since 2011, where she worked as a Clinical Data Specialist and transitioned into the role of Clinical Research Coordinator. Her 4 years as a Clinical Research Coordinator has allotted her extensive knowledge and understanding of clinical trials and research. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Cellular & Molecular Biology from California State University Dominguez Hills and is an active member of the Society of Clinical Research Associates.

Pre-Award: Team A

Denise Deack, Budget Specialist, develops and negotiates industry-sponsored budgets primarily for the Division of Oncology. She has worked for USC for over 25 years in various capacities and therapeutic areas within the Clinical Trials Office.

Sara Katrdzhyan, Senior Contract Manager, is responsible for negotiating contract terms for clinical trial agreements. Sara has successfully executed contracts for clinical trials and has built great working relationships with clinical research staff and principal investigators. She has extensive experience in managing and maintaining compliance of agreements. Prior to joining USC, Sara was a Contract Compliance Manager, where she oversaw a group of compliance specialists at Healthways in Phoenix, AZ. She also worked for several years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

Pre-Award: Team B

Rocio Maldonado, Sr. Contracts Officer, is responsible for managing and negotiating clinical trial contract terms. She joined CTO in February 2015. Prior to joining USC, she had negotiated purchasing agreements and was managing all business operations for Perioperative Services.

Teresa Trejo, Budget Specialist, is responsible for developing and acting as a University representative in budget negotiations for industry-sponsored clinical trial budgets. She has been with USC for 14 years where she has gained extensive knowledge in negotiating and developing budgets for clinical trials. She has successfully built great working relationships with sponsoring companies and clinical research staff.

Pre-Award: Team C

Bobby Gatson, Budget Specialist, has worked with industry clinical trials since 2007. He has worked in the capacity of a Contract Analyst and Budget Specialist. Prior to 2007, Bobby had been a research coordinator and Q/A Q/C coordinator with NIH and CDC-funded, infectious disease studies.

Adena Gharaptyan, Contracts Officer, is responsible for managing and negotiating clinical trial contract terms. She has also worked in the capacity of Budget Specialist at CTO. Previously, she had negotiated purchasing agreements with LA County Internal Services Department. Adena has been part of the USC family since 2012, where she graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Accounting.

Post-Award: Billing

Cindy Morales, Claim Analyst, is responsible for reviewing and processing medical claims. Her role requires that she interpret clinical trial budgets in order to process medical claims accordingly. She was originally part of Sponsored Projects Accounting (SPA) department, and prior to that was a member of the USC CRO team. Cindy’s career at USC, began with the Department of Surgery as an Accounting Representative, primarily focused around medical billing and coding and payment collection. Her current role has further developed her knowledge of research and clinical trials.

Talena Sanchez, Data Entry Operator, administers the TRUE database and email/fax inbox. She coordinates with research teams to review and validate all participant information that is entered in TRUE, as well as maintaining records/logs for the medical claims process. She has held positions with USC’s Health Research Association and Keck Medicine of USC’s Access Center, where she has gained experience in medical billing and clinical trials.

Nora Turrey, Supervisor – Claims Analysis & TRUE, reviews and assesses the scope of clinical research billing for Keck, Norris, LA County and USC CARE providers. She maintains the TRUE database and review of TRUE documents. She has over 20 years of medical services experience within USC.

Post-Award: Accounting

Stephanie Gonzales, Accountant I, manages the clinical trial accounts for post-award. She facilitates the accounts receivable for all studies. Her role involves daily communication with departments and sponsors. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and has been working for the University of Southern California for 3 years.

Kyoko McCarthy, Accountant I, is part of the CTO post-award team. She manages the financial aspect of clinical trials and facilitates the receipt of study funds. She has more than 2 years of experience in research funds.

Esther Suko, Accounting Supervisor, oversees the accounting and financial aspects of post-award for clinical trials. Her extensive experience has allowed her to specialize in translating budget details into effective management systems. She has successfully applied her organizational as well as accounting knowledge and skills to develop processes to manage the post-award financial functions of clinical trial operations.

Anna Tan, Accountant I, has been with the Clinical Trials Office for the past two years. In her role, she provides a variety of accounting and financial activities associated with sponsor payments, hospital claims, and study drugs for clinical patient care.