As senior associate vice president for research, Ficht supports health-related research at Texas A&M University, promotes federal funding opportunities, technology translation, and industry engagement. Ficht oversees the new Global Health Research Complex that, when completed, will support large animal research at Biosafety Level 3 (Agriculture) as well as research into vector-borne diseases.
As a member of the faculty of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, Ficht pursues her interest in tropical disease and vaccine development. Her laboratory employs microparticles and nanoparticles for timed release of vaccines with the ultimate goal of creating a needle-free “pocket vaccine.” This technology has been applied to the development of vaccines against brucellosis, tuberculosis, and Q fever as well as Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus and hantavirus.
During her tenure at Texas A&M, Ficht has received national and international recognition, including extramural funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US Department of Defense, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, NASA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Park Service, and the National Science Foundation for research in human and animal disease. She has published more than eighty manuscripts and served on editorial boards for the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine and Nanomedicine, and as special editor for the International Journal for Parasitology. Additionally, she served on scientific review panels for NIH and USDA, as panel manager for USDA, and on numerous scientific advisory boards.
Ficht directs the Center for Microencapsulation and Drug Delivery, a group of life scientists and engineers pioneering sustained and targeted delivery of vaccines and pharmaceuticals. She serves as managing partner for NanoRelease Technologies, LLC, a controlled-release innovation company in San Antonio.
Ficht has served for five years as associate vice president for research of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and for a year and a half as the center’s interim vice president for research, supporting the Research Compliance Office, providing oversight for centers and institutes, and developing new programs and research initiatives. In research compliance, she has provided oversight for the biological safety and select agent programs and served as the center’s representative on the Institutional Biosafety Committee. She has also served as interim research compliance officer for the center, as coordinator for implementation of the Export Control Program, and as conflict of interest official for the Financial Conflict of Interest Program.
In the area of program development, she has worked to expand research expertise in the Center for Microencapsulation and Drug Delivery through the development of joint research programs with Texas A&M’s College of Pharmacy. Ficht facilitated the college’s expansion of research and educational programs in the College Station area and established a secondary pharmacy campus, serving as interim vice dean for the college.
Ficht received her doctorate from Vanderbilt University and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Iowa.