Soilcea is using targeted breeding to create citrus trees that are highly tolerant to the citrus industry’s deadliest diseases. Two bacterial diseases, citrus canker and Huanglongbing (greening), are decimating the Florida citrus industry, having already cost the state over $7.8 billion in lost revenue. At Soilcea, our in-house team is working diligently with leading researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to forestall the rapid decline of citrus production and deliver citrus trees highly tolerant to these deadly pathogens by using the targeted CRISPR/Cas9 editing system.
$1.5 Billion Annual Production Decline
Soilcea is using the CRISPR/Cas9 system can be used to perform non-transgenic genome alterations of citrus trees by removing genes susceptible to specific bacterial diseases. The USDA considers plant edited with CRISPR/Cas9 that could occur naturally as non-GMO and non-regulated. This editing is different from traditional GMOs because no foreign DNA is inserted into the citrus tree from any foreign organism, such as an insect or another plant species. Due to the absence of foreign DNA, Soilcea’s highly-tolerant citrus trees will provide a non-GMO solution to both canker and citrus greening.
President & CEO
Yianni began his legal career at Angie’s List during the company’s IPO. Thereafter, Yianni began working at an industry-funded think tank, the Future of Privacy Forum, where he published an article describing de-identification in the Stanford Law Review. He then co-founded the investment firm, Spartan Brothers Capital, which primarily invests in real estate, farm enterprises, and tech start-ups. Yianni, a CFA Charterholder, earned his J.D., Magna Cum Laude, and his M.B.A. from Ohio State University, and he earned his B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Kara Boltz received her B.S. in Biology with Highest Honors from Georgia Institute of Technology. After working as a research technician and lab manager at Georgia Tech and Texas A&M University, she went on to get her PhD in Biology at Texas A&M. Her dissertation project examined telomere biology and DNA repair in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, and Kara developed extensive plant molecular biology and biochemistry experience directly relevant to her work at Soilcea. After receiving her PhD, Kara was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina where she studied epigenetics in fruit flies. She then moved to North Carolina State University to obtain training in genetic pest control. At NCSU Kara designed and evaluated CRISPR/Cas9 gene drive systems to control two agricultural fly pests, Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) and New World Screwworm. She optimized protocols for CRISPR/Cas9 in SWD and gained in depth understanding of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. Finally, in between her postdoctoral positions, Kara was introduced to the agricultural biotech industry when she interned at Bayer CropScience identifying novel pesticidal proteins from bacteria.
Prior to co-founding Soilcea with Yianni, and focusing on the world of agriculture, Chana worked at the international law firm, White & Case, after receiving her J.D. from the Florida’s Levin College of Law. Thereafter, she worked as an antitrust attorney for WilmerHale in Washington, D.C., and was part of the legal team handling the largest antitrust case ever filed in U.S. history. The world of complex regulatory litigation eventually led her back to her home state of Florida to work for Senator Bill Galvano, the former majority leader of the Florida senate, focusing on myriad policy initiatives, including agricultural, environmental, and water policy.
Dr. Nian Wang
Associate Professor – University of Florida
Dr. Wang is a well-respected leader in the agricultural sciences having published over fifty referenced articles. His lab pioneered citrus genome editing using CRISPR technology. Dr. Wang earned his Ph.D. in plant pathology from Texas A&M University, his M.S. in plant pathology from the China Agricultural University, and his B.S. in plant protection from Shandong Agricultural University. He was postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.