Drs. Harry Klee, Denise Tieman and Balasubramani Rathinasabapathi from the UF Horticultural Sciences department were honored on May 19 at the 8th Annual UF/IFAS Award Ceremony.
Drs. Klee and Tieman were recognized for their patent on an enzyme that synthesizes some of the most important flavor volatile compounds in a tomato fruit. One of those compounds, 2-phenylethanol, is the most widely used flavor and fragrance chemicals. The only natural source of 2-phenylethanol is extraction from rose petals, so even though it is synthesized by the ton industrially, it is extremely expensive. Understanding the natural synthetic pathway opens up possibilities to enhance its production in plants.
Dr. Rathinasabapathi was honored for his research on understanding how plants adapt to stress. Based on their discoveries about gene function, Dr. Rathinasabapathi’s and his colleagues have been issued utility patents to improve crop plants tolerance to high temperature stress. In their recent research, they have successfully improved rice plants’ tolerance to high temerpature stress using a gene encoding glutaredoxin protein.