Partnership will expedite jatropha research

By Lisa Gibson
Posted January 20, 2010, at 9:30 a.m. CST

The breeding and germplasm of SG Biofuels, partnered with the biotechnology platform and gene sequencing capabilities of Life Technologies Corp., a life science solution provider, will help prove jatropha to be the most profitable and sustainable biofuel feedstock, according to SG Biofuels President and CEO Kirk Haney.

The two companies have formed a strategic alliance, initially with the intent to sequence the Jatropha curcas genome, allowing for the rapid introduction of new traits targeted toward increasing the yield of the oil-producing plant, according to SG Biofuels. The company has the largest library of jatropha genetic material in the world, along with field trials throughout Latin America, and is working to identify and develop valuable traits, including cold tolerance, which would mean the crop could be grown in many areas of the U.S.

"It allows us to not only accelerate our breeding platform, but also now to start to develop our biotechnology platform," Haney said of the partnership. "By having them do [genome sequencing] for us, it not only saves us a lot of money, but it saves a lot of time."

Life Technology's investment of equity and time into SG Biofuels signals a global opportunity for jatrohpa, Haney said. "As humbled and flattered as we are that they chose us, it's a really important signal to the market that they chose jatropha and that they chose us, because we have a clear sustainable advantage in the 3 years we've been working on jatropha," he said. The partnership will allow SG Biofuels to bring a high-quality, profitable crop to market for customers much more quickly, he added.

This investment signifies the first jatropha endeavor for Life Technologies and validates the near-term potential of the crop, according to Haney. Other potential biofuel feedstocks such as algae could be 15 to 20 years away from commercialization, he added.

The first phase of the partnership will center on genome sequencing, followed by further development of synthetic biology. "It's a great partnership," Haney said. "Their technology platform combined with our breeding and germplasm was a perfect combination."