Cade Prize 2018: Winner aims to boost Florida orange groves

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Olana Osborn Most people know the sports drink Gatorade, but did you know it originated here in Gainesville?

In fact, it's inventor - Dr. Robert Cade - has a museum named after him and every year they award the "cade prize," which gives inventors the opportunity to win a patent and business advising, along with a cash prize.

"We want to help take on the challenge of telling the story of innovation in Florida’s economy," said Stephanie Bailes, executive director of the Cade Museum.

The Cade Museum was founded bearing the name of an innovative thinker -- Dr. Cade. The museum has a mission to promote and celebrate science, technology, invention, and those who spearhead new ideas that leave legacies.

"A legacy is different, is life-changing, and a legacy really great ideas with the possibility transform communities, and bring them to life, and make an impact on society," Bailes continued, "And that’s really with the Cade prize is about, trying to identify those things that will transform society."

This year the winner of the Cade prize is a company called Soilcea.

Soilcea is an agricultural biotechnology company and we are focused on using gene editing to solve citrus diseases. Soilcea changes the genes of citrus crops.

"You can think of this as molecular scissors," said Kara Boltz, lead scientist at Soilcea, "So essentially we are just going in and making a small change in the citruses own genes that will help alleviate the disease symptoms."

But it's not a GMO.

"A GMO traditionally is a foreign gene, so say a gene from an insect or a bacterium, that gets inserted into the crop, and so we are not doing that, we are still maintaining the original citrus genome," Boltz said.

Soilcea's team is doing this to help reignite Florida's citrus economy.

According to Boltz, "there has been an 80% decline in citrus production since 2004, so we are hoping that we will be able to provide trees to growers they can start re-planting their groves."