Guayule Latex Process Is Licensed
By Marcia A.
January 22, 1997
ALBANY, Calif., Jan. 22--A newly
process to make hypoallergenic latex has now been licensed by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture to
Philadelphia-based Yulex Corp.
Yulex will use a procedure developed by Katrina Cornish of USDA's
Agricultural Research Service, Albany,
Calif., to make hypoallergenic latex products from the rubber of a shrub called
guayule (pronounced "why-YOU-lee).
Known to botanists as Parthenium argentatum, guayule is native to the
southwest and has been grown experimentally in California, Arizona, New Mexico
"It has been estimated that at least 20 million Americans suffer from
latex allergies that can be triggered by using latex gloves, condoms or other
natural rubber products," said
Allergy symptoms range from rashes and hives to life-threatening anaphylactic
"The allergic responses," said Cornish, "are triggered by
proteins in rubber from the conventional source, the Brazilian rubber tree
Hevea brasiliensis. More than 40,000 products are made from
Hevea rubber, including about 300 medical products such as catheters and
surgical gloves. But guayule is a promising source of high-quality natural
rubber that will not trigger this specific allergy in Hevea-allergic
"Products manufactured from guayule may not only
offer a safe alternative for Hevea allergy sufferers, but may also
protect future generations from allergic reactions to latex," said Yulex
president Daniel R. Swiger.
According to Cornish, preliminary medical tests suggest that guayule-latex
products would be safe for use by individuals who already suffer from
Hevea-latex allergies. For the tests, Cornish collaborated with medical
researchers at the Woodland
Clinic Medical Group, Woodland, Calif.;
Island Hospital, Providence, R.I.; and
Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine, Baltimore, Md.
Swiger said his company's initial market will be healthcare professionals
who now routinely wear gloves as protection against AIDS and other infectious
diseases. "Large-scale production of guayule latex is feasible," he
said. "Its commercialization will directly address the problem of
Selecting guayule as a source of natural rubber isn't a new idea. But
Cornish and her team at the ARS Western
Regional Research Center in Albany are the first to recognize--and later
prove--guayule's potential as a source of hypoallergenic latex.
"This high-value product," Cornish noted, "offers a new economic
opportunity for growers in the American Southwest."
Scientific contact: June Blalock, patent licensing coordinator,
Office of Technology Transfer,
Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, Md. 20705, (301) 504-5989,
firstname.lastname@example.org or Daniel R. Swiger,
President, Yulex Corp., Philadelphia, Pa. 19148, telephone (215) 755-4070