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Direct Diagnostics Team

About Us

Our vision is for diagnostic facts to drive the standard of care in oral health treatment decisions.

At Direct Diagnostics, we are a dedicated team of 15 individuals on a mission to revolutionize oral health care. Our vision is clear: we aim to empower professionals in the oral health field to make informed, evidence-based treatment decisions. We believe that every practicing oral health professional should have the confidence to provide the highest level of care, backed by solid facts and reliable evidence. Join us in our journey to bring evidence-based oral health care into the hands of every practitioner, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for all.

Licenses and Accreditations

Direct Diagnostics is CLIA Certified

Direct Diagnostics is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA), 42 U.S.C. §263a, and meets the requirements to perform high complexity tests. CLIA Registration 45D2190910.

Direct Diagnostics is CAP Accredited

Direct Diagnostics is certified under the College of American Pathologists (CAP), CAP Accreditation #9088531

JEFF SOPKO

President and CEO

Jeff Sopko is a healthcare executive who, for the past four years and until June 2022, was President, CEO and Board Member of Standard Molecular, Inc., a startup genomics software company focused on oncology based in Cambridge, MA. Standard Molecular created and launched products serving the academic, community oncology and life science marketplaces with the objective of making NGS and molecular testing accessible to all patients and their physicians, and that one day these technologies and capabilities will become the standard of care in oncology. Prior to Standard Molecular, Jeff was Managing Director and Head Industry Solutions for KPMG, LLP in New York. Jeff was a founding executive of the firm’s new global products business and lead the healthcare technology vertical which combined technology solutions (SaaS/PaaS) and the firms professional services professionals to deliver end-to-end solutions to clients in the payer, provider and life science markets. Prior to KPMG, Jeff has held leadership positions of continuing scale and responsibility at leading healthcare companies including Surescripts, Medtronic, Becton, Dickinson & Company, Deloitte Consulting, LLP and STERIS Corporation. Jeff earned his graduate degree at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and his undergraduate degree at Rider College in Lawrenceville, NJ. Jeff lives in CT with his wife Kelli and has two children Juliana and Gabriel. Jeff devotes his personal time to organizations who are working to solve the cancer problem and that support families impacted by this diagnosis including the Stronger Together Foundation, Love for Linley, The Patrick Dempsey Center, The Jimmy Fund, Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana Farber.

DR. TOM NABORS

Chief of Oral Systemic Medicine

For thirty-seven years, Dr. Tom Nabors has served as a leader in advancing oral microbiology, immunology, and the emerging field of Oral Systemic Health. Following a career in Dentistry, he launched Oral DNA in 2008, the first diagnostic laboratory to focus on the indemnification and diagnostic relevance of oral pathogens. The company was acquired by Quest Diagnostics in 2009 where Tom remained the Chief Dental Officer until 2012. He has remained active in the industry working to advance the science as well as its implementation and impact on practice management. Tom received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Tennessee Health-Sciences and has served in senior roles across numerous professional organizations including the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health and as Adjunct Professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center: Bioscience Research Department.

JULIE COX, RDH

Senior Director Clinical Education and Customer Success

Julie Cox is a Registered Dental Hygienist. She earned her Bachelor’s degree of Science, as well as her EFDA certification at The Ohio State University. She has over 15 years of experience as a clinician in the central Ohio area. Additionally, Julie has worked as a dental consultant in the coaching/education space for over 12 years. She is most passionate, and extensively trained in oral systemic health, specifically utilizing targeted therapy to treat high risk oral pathogens. Favorite Quote: "You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both." - Brenè Brown

PRAVIN MALLA SHRESTHA, PH.D

Chief Scientific Officer

Pravin is a microbiologist with deep knowledge and understanding of aerobic -anaerobic bacteria physiology, cultivation, and strain characterization with extensive experience in developing and optimizing microbiology, molecular biology, immunodiagnostics assays, and molecular diagnostics.He has had extensive scientific research experience in academia and industry over the last 15 years. Pravin obtained his Ph.D. in Molecular Ecology, Microbiology & Biogeochemistry from the Max Planck Institute –Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. After which, he completed post-doctoral programs at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and the University of California–Berkeley. He worked at Assembly Biosciences in San Francisco, California before joining Paratus Diagnostics.Pravin has over thirty peer-reviewed research publications in various international journals including Nature.

NICKI MACKEY

Senior Director, Commercial

Nicki Mackey is a marketing professional with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Eastern Kentucky University, specializing in Marketing. With a diverse range of experience in e-commerce, healthcare non-profit, and healthcare marketing agency roles, Nicki has honed her skills in strategic marketing and brand management. Her background also includes playing division 1 collegiate golf and serving as a PGA golf professional at Pebble Beach Resorts. In her spare time, she enjoys home renovation projects, woodworking, and reading.

JESSICA LITTLE

Account Manager

Jessica Little earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology at The University of Georgia in 2020. For the past 4 years following college, she has been working in a dental office. She thrives in patient care and understands the hustle and bustle in the daily life of a dental clinician. When she is not working, she most enjoys working out or hiking, being at the lake, or watching college football. Go Dawgs! She was born & raised in Georgia, and is still living just north of Atlanta. Favorite saying that gets her through the day - "This too shall pass."

CHRISTINE BULOT, PH.D.

Clinical Lab Director

Christine Bulot earned her masters degree in genetics from the University of New Orleans and Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Tulane University School of Medicine. She has over 15 years’ successful laboratory experience including clinical, research and academic labs as well as FDA and CDC collaboration. Certified by the American Board of Bioanalysis as a High Complexity Clinical Laboratory Director and by the College of American Pathologists as a Laboratory Inspector Team Lead. She earned the Excellence in Leadership award for her work at the Texas Department of State Health Services laboratory and is concurrently Associate Professor of Biology at Austin Community College. Christine's Hobbies include anything outdoorsy. Favorite Quote: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.” - Dalai Lama XIV

MINITA SHRESTHA, PH.D

Principal Scientist 1

Minita Shrestha received her Ph.D. in Microbial Ecology from the Max Planck Institute – Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. She completed post-doctoral programs at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory-Berkeley. She worked at the University of Texas, Austin before joining Direct Diagnostics, San Marcos, TX. A strong advocate for microbial ecology, microbiology, biogeochemistry, and environmental microbiome, she has deep knowledge and understanding of aerobic - anaerobic bacteria physiology, cultivation, and strain characterization with extensive experience in various molecular microbiological and genetic tools. Her professional interests focus on developing and optimizing microbiology, molecular biology, immunodiagnostics assays, and molecular diagnostics. Besides the experiments in the lab, Minita Shrestha also has a passion for food science and loves to try new recipes in the kitchen. It is better to say, she is a fantastic cook, baker, and food-lover. Her other secret to happiness is being close to nature; she loves gardening, hiking, and exploring the World. Favorite Quote: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” —Steve Jobs

DIANA NEWTON

Research Associate III/CLIA Supervisor

Diana Newton obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Texas State University in 2018. After obtaining her degree she began work at Direct Diagnostics (Paratus Diagnostics) in 2019. Diana has been able to utilize her skills in biology not only in the CLIA lab but also on Research & Development projects while at Direct Diagnostics. Her attention to detail, ability to adapt, problem solve and think outside the box has been integral to the Direct Diagnostics team. When not at work her interests include reading, working out and spending time with family and friends. Favorite Quote: "Do one thing everyday that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt

PHIL JONES, MD

Director

Phil Jones is a retired urologist and active biotechnology investor based Norman, Oklahoma with diverse business interests including medical, biotech, energy, ranching, and real estate ventures. He co-founded Norman Urology Associates and has served as president of the Norman Physician Hospital Organization and the Oklahoma State Urologic Association. He also directed the Strategic Planning Committee as a Board Member of the Norman Regional Hospital Trust Authority. Dr. Jones served as the lead angel and board member of Selexys Pharmaceuticals, recently acquired by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, which developed a promising treatment for sickle cell anemia. He currently serves on the board of Tetherex Pharmaceuticals which is focused upon new treatments for thrombotic and inflammatory diseases. Dr. Jones is skillfully advised in all phases of business and life by his attorney-wife Cathleen and is protected from his longhorn cattle by his ranch partners and sons, Colin of Norman, Oklahoma, and Logan of Austin, Texas.

RICK MCKINNEY, MD

Chairman

Dr. McKinney has been an active participant in a number of businesses that include founding member of Arbor House assisted livings, multiple home healthcare agencies, an accountable care organization, private allied health schools, Selexys Pharmaceuticals, board member and owner of Oklahoma State Bank. He holds a MS in Chemistry from Texas A&M and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from University of North Texas Health Science Center – Texas College Osteopathic Medicine. He completed a Medical Oncology Fellowship at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Hospital and retired from practicing oncology in 2008. He and his wife Deborah live in Austin, Texas and have two adult children, one living in Austin and one in Santa Barbara, California.

ROB DONNELLY

Director

Rob Donnelly is an investor and entrepreneur with 18 years of investment management, biotechnology, and corporate board experience. His former roles include principal investing and executive management across a diverse range of emerging companies. In 1999, Rob was a founding principal of Genesis Park, a Houston-based venture capital and private equity fund that invested across industries and structures. His experience in venture includes life sciences, material sciences, and software; while his private equity interests cover buy-out, turn-around and value-add opportunities. Rob earned a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M University and an M.B.A. in Finance from Southern Methodist University.

SUSAN GROSS, DDS

Clinical Advisory Board Member

Susan Gross graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology. She was deeply interested in the health care aspect of this field and wanted the opportunity to establish collaborative relationships with people that comes from direct patient interaction and mutual trust. Her background in medical technology provided the ideal framework of knowledge for a career in dentistry. She earned her DDS degree from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in 1982 and is in private practice in St. Louis Park, Minnesota at Root Cause Integrative Dental Medicine. Her passion is to “put the body back together” in order to identify and treat the root causes of health problems and whenever possible, prevent these diseases in the first place. As an avid and curious learner, this has taken her on a path of vast discovery and learning, along with the opportunity to collaborate with many progressive practitioners. She is an active volunteer through several community organizations that provide dental care to those with limited access and to those neighbors with food and housing insecurity. RootCauseDental.com

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