May 1, 2020

NDSU alumna active in battle against pandemic


An NDSU alumna holds an important position with a research company on the front lines of the Covid-19 fight.

Researchers at BioFire Diagnostics, a leader in syndromic infectious disease testing located in Salt Lake City, Utah, are developing rapid tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus) which causes Covid-19. Ali Tackett, MS ’08, environmental and conservation sciences, is the company’s director of product transfer and labeling.

“I've always felt like the work I do plays its own part in creating a positive impact on the world,” said Tackett, who has worked at BioFire for nearly nine years. “With the current pandemic, infectious diseases are at the forefront of discussions globally. I'm sure anyone will tell you – the work is definitely a large group effort and I feel happy to be in a position where I can help to create something that will have such a positive impact on millions of people.”

BioFire Diagnostics and BioFire Defense are subsidiaries of bioMérieux, a global in vitro diagnostics leader. The companies have been working on tests that detect SARS-CoV-2 in approximately 45 minutes from a nasopharyngeal swab.

BioFire Defense’s Covid-19 test recently received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. BioFire Diagnostics’ test, called RP2.1, will detect SARS-CoV-2 and an additional 21 respiratory pathogens.

In her work, Tackett oversees BioFire employees in two areas – a technical product labeling team and two groups of project managers who coordinate the company’s efforts to transfer products from research and development into manufacturing. She supervises a total of 18 workers.

“I really enjoy the work I do and the impact we are able to make as a company,” Tackett said. “I am impressed by our innovation and what we are able to accomplish collaboratively. It is a great work environment for me, with each day presenting its own challenges and rewards.”

As an NDSU graduate student in the environmental and conservation sciences graduate program, Tackett worked in the laboratory of Craig Stockwell, professor of biological sciences. Her master’s degree thesis examined the genetic variability of the johnny darter, a poorly-studied small stream fish in the Upper Midwest. Those studies put her on a path to success.

“Ali’s critical thinking abilities, combined with her writing skills, prepared her well for her career in biotechnology,” Stockwell said, noting Tackett also served as a teaching assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences. “NDSU’s numerous graduate course offerings give students a strong foundation in their home discipline, while giving them opportunities to take courses in other disciplines to broaden their horizons, both academically and professionally.”

Tackett wholeheartedly agrees.

“My environmental and conservation sciences degree from NDSU is interdisciplinary,” she said. “I took a wide range of courses in addition to my own research. The opportunity to study in multiple fields helped me to be adaptable and marketable, but also to grow in the positions I held after finishing my graduate work at NDSU.”

Before working for BioFire, Tackett was a research associate at Myriad Genetics, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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