TOKYO — Bridgestone Corp. and Energin.R Technologies 2009 Ltd. (NRGene), a genomics company, have completed a four-year collaboration to identify the genetics of the guayule shrub, an alternative source of natural rubber.
The work on the genome sequence is part of Bridgestone's efforts to diversify the company's sources of raw materials. Natural rubber is overwhelmingly harvested from hevea trees in Southeast Asia.
Guayule, a desert shrub native to the Southwest U.S. and Mexico, is an alternative source of NR that some believe could be commercialized to create additional supply.
"Today we mark another important milestone towards expanding natural rubber resources and reducing production costs," Gil Ronen, founder and CEO of NRGene, said.
"Using guayule, Bridgestone could not only meet the critical performance standards for the tire industry but also produce more sustainable products, relying on domestic plant-based resources."
Bridgestone and NRGene analyzed guayule DNA "to allow more efficient use of inherent genetic diversity to breed highly productive varieties," the companies reported.
"The collaboration between Bridgestone and NRGene will provide important advances for the future of the automotive and rubber industries," William Niaura, director of innovation at Bridgestone Americas said.
Bridgestone's previous work with the hevea genome combined with the guayule work "uniquely positions" the company to become "a leader in the genetics and improvement of rubber-producing plants," Mr. Niaura said.
San Diego-based NRGene describes itself as a genomics company that provides turn-key solutions to seed and food companies to help them maximize their crop yield.