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Toyota signs licensing agreement for GRAS-Di DNA analysis technology

New technology can simplify process of identifying and selecting breeding specimens with useful genetic information.

Toyota Motor Corp. announced Oct. 30 that it has signed an agreement with Kazusa DNA Research Institute, Eurofins Genomics K.K. and GeneBay Inc. to license Toyota's unique GRAS-Di DNA analysis technology that can dramatically accelerate selective breeding.

Since the announcement of this technology in September 2016, Toyota said it has received acclaim from Kazusa, Eurofins Genomics and GeneBay, and starting in November 2017, it will be put to practical use in contract-based analysis businesses in Japan and around the world.

Until now, selective breeding involved repeated selection and mating of parent varieties -- based on extensive past results -- and evaluation of their offspring in order to select new varieties with the desired characteristics.

In September 2016, Toyota announced that it had paired its proprietary sample preparation technology with a next-generation sequencer to develop GRAS-Di, a new technology that can substantially simplify the process of identifying and selecting specimens with useful genetic information. It addressed limitations posed by conventional technology, enabling significant reductions in cost and man-hours, the company said. As a result, cost has been cut by approximately two-thirds and man-hours by approximately nine-tenths of the previous level.

In signing the agreement, the parties described their evaluation and expectations. Kazusa indicated that "We expect that the technology will not only be used by research and development organizations but also widely by private companies."

Eurofins Genomics added, "The ability of this technology to analyze a large number of DNA samples easily and quickly at low cost will support further research and will significantly contribute to addressing world food and energy problems."

"It is common industry knowledge that it is necessary to acquire a large amount of DNA and data, which was a hurdle for spreading the technology and applying it. We expect it to be widely used in agriculture and livestock and many other industries," GeneBay noted.

Toyota said it expects that GRAS-Di can be applied to general selective breeding not only in agriculture but for wide-ranging development in areas like the livestock, forestry and fishery industries. Toyota believes that by introducing the technology to companies that intend to expand their businesses globally, the technology will contribute to addressing global issues through increased production of biofuels and foods and improvement of the disease resistance of crops.

Consequently, Toyota will continue to actively disclose and share information in an effort to spread the technology further.

Project history

In order to prepare for the population, food and environmental challenges of the 21st century and to support the sustainable growth of the automobile industry in general, Toyota said it was necessary to create a business that contributes to the environment. Consequently, in May 1999, the company established its Biotechnology & Afforestation Laboratory in Miyoshi City, Japan, which has engaged in business activities focusing on research and development and demonstration activities in addition to activities that contribute to the community and society.

As part of Toyota Global Vision announced in March 2011, the company is committed to making ever-better cars and contributing to the enrichment of people's lives and the community. This facilitates the sustainable growth of the company as well as the construction of a stable management foundation.

In April 2011, Toyota began work to improve the rice production process with the aim of contributing to the sustainable growth of agriculture. In April 2014, it launched a cloud service (Housaku Keikaku), which applies the concept of the Toyota Production System, production management techniques and process improvement know-how from the automobile business to agriculture.

Toyota also provided unique improvement support services and has promoted improvements to productivity and human resources at agricultural production sites.

Currently, the Biotechnology & Afforestation Laboratory is engaged in business activities that will widely contribute to enriching communities. This is intended to be accomplished within a scope ranging from research into basic technologies to the improvement of work sites, all within the fields of environmental contribution and the agricultural and livestock industry.

The Kazusa DNA Research Institute was established in 1991 as the DNA Research Institute in Kisarazu City, Japan. Through its main facility, the Kazusa Academia Park, it is engaged in life science and technology research centered on genome research while providing industrial support and striving to contribute to society.

Eurofins Genomics is a multinational bioanalysis company with 375 analysis and testing laboratories and more than 30,000 employees in 41 countries. Its genomics division has bases in Japan, the U.S., Germany and India, providing products and contract services globally in genome research and development, including Oligo DNA synthesis, artificial gene synthesis and next-generation sequencing analysis.

GeneBay is a contract services start-up company that provides a wide range of information technology and bio-analysis technology, including cutting-edge genome analysis. It provides services in a wide range of fields, including food, medical care, energy, agriculture, chemistry and the environment.

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