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Two UF/IFAS doctoral grads start genetics company

RAPiD Genomics 101615 - Leandro Neves

Leandro Neves

RAPiD Genomics 101615 Marcio Resende

Marcio Resende

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two former doctoral students from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are running a genetics startup company in Gainesville and recently were recognized by Gov. Rick Scott as “Young Entrepreneurs.”

Marcio Resende said he came up with the idea for RAPiD Genomics while in Brazil due to a demand from a forestry company that needed someone to do some genotyping for them. Several factors, including costs, kept him from pursuing the notion.

But when he came to the United States to pursue his doctorate, he started talking to Leandro Gomide Neves, a fellow doctoral student, and Matias Kirst, a professor of forest genomics at UF/IFAS. They decided to open RAPiD Genomics. At the same time, they teamed up with some colleagues to invent a genotyping method, which gave them extra motivation to pursue the idea of opening a business.

Resende and Gomide Neves are in the business of genotyping. They analyze the genetic makeup of a given individual or population and characterize their DNA to see how individuals differ from each other. The information is typically used to aid plant or animal breeding, but it actually has a wide array of other applications. Each time a customer sends Resende and Gomide Neves a sample for genotyping, they charge a fee to process the sample and return the results of the individual’s DNA fingerprint.

Resende works as the RAPiD Genomics chief executive officer, while Gomide Neves is the chief scientific officer.

Starting up a business while studying for their doctorates wasn’t easy.

“In the beginning, it was tough,” Resende said. “We would try to spend regular work hours on the doctoral work, and nights and weekends on the business and eventually find some time for leisure and sleep.”

When they started developing the genotyping method, they were approached by a pulp and paper company in Brazil, he said. The company grows Eucalyptus trees as a paper source and wanted to profile the DNA of multiple Eucalyptus plants in a cost-effective manner that processes many samples quickly.

This information, combined with the target trait – for example, tree height — lets them create a model that uses the DNA information to predict which trees are the best for a specific use. Once this model is created, the company can fingerprint the DNA of new tree plant seedlings and predict whether they will be good candidates without the need to test them in the field. This method, called genomic selection, significantly reduces the breeding time, and potentially increases the breeding efficiency.

“We actually have already genotyped over 100 species,” Resende said. “They vary from multiple species of trees, to birds, butterflies, maize, lettuce, different fruits, wheat, barley, multiple fishes, insects and more.”

You can contact Resende and Neves at the Florida Innovation Hub, http://floridainnovationhub.ufl.edu, or at their address, 747 SW 2nd Avenue, Suite 354, Gainesville, Florida. You can also check out their home page at

www.rapid-genomics.com, call them at 352-273-2196 or email them at mresende@rapid-genomics.com or lneves@rapid-genomics.com.

Scott’s “Young Entrepreneur Award” recognizes Florida students, college graduates and young entrepreneurs who are excelling in the workplace and creating innovative ideas in Florida. The governor recently visited the Florida Innovation Hub to recognize Resende and Gomide Neves among five other young entrepreneurs.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Marcio Resende, 352-273-2196, mresende@rapid-genomics.com