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ALACHUA – Students in the Institute of Biotechnology at Santa Fe High School will be benefitting from a donation from UF Innovate and the local Center State Bank. On Feb. 25, 2020, Santa Fe High School’s C. Wyland Oyama of the Institute of Biotechnology and Principal Dr. Elizabeth LeClear met with Center State Bank Manager Romina Mincey and UF Innovate’s Elliott Welker to receive a check from the bank for $1,000 to benefit the Institute of Biotechnology program students.

Under the direction of Oyama, the biotech program is a three-to-four year commitment that can earn high school students industry certification through the Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam (BACE). Students in the Academic Magnet Program are experiencing hands-on learning to prepare them for jobs in the biotech industry immediately out of high school or training for a college curriculum in the biotech field.

Students conduct labs using current techniques and equipment they would see in the industry and develop the skills and knowledge to pass the BACE. Participants experience an intense program, testing themselves with college level science and math content while still in high school. To stay with the program takes dedication and hard work.

Biotechnology is changing the world and the job market. Currently, there are more than 250 biotechnology health care products and vaccines available to patients, many for previously untreatable diseases. Biotech is saving lives and improving health by harnessing nature's own materials and using genetic makeup. The technology is reducing rates of infectious diseases and reducing life-threatening conditions affecting millions around the world.

More than 13 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotechnology to increase yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce farming's impact on the environment. Biotechnology has helped increase food production by improving crop insect resistance, enhancing crop herbicide tolerance and promoting the use of more environmentally sustainable farming practices. This has helped generate higher crop yields, lowered the amount of agricultural chemicals required by crops, which limits the run-off of these products into the environment and using biotech crops that need fewer pesticides.

UF Innovate at the University of Florida was created to foster innovation and research while also promoting entrepreneurship and business growth in science. UF Innovate connects innovators with entrepreneurs, investors and industry. They help startups and growing tech companies learn how to run business as well as conduct research. Many of the startup companies are located in Alachua's Progress Park at UF’s Sid Martin Biotech, a world-recognized leader in biotechnology business incubation. Both the University of Florida and Santa Fe College have strong departments in science, math and medical fields, which strengthens the local workforce of biotech employees that are employed locally by companies in the biotech industry.

UF Innovate Sid Martin Biotech sees the potential of Santa Fe High School’s role in preparing students and helping them transition into jobs in biotech and to college. Alachua’s Center State Bank Branch Manager Mincey also recognizes the work of these students, and as a sponsor for the UF Innovate program, the bank helps grow biotech industry businesses, assisting many of the startup companies at Progress Park. UF Innovate also has started a Go Fund Me site to raise $3,000 to buy textbooks for the program as well.

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