Tiziana Life Sciences said today it has purchased one of the world’s largest and oldest biorepositories from the biobanking and genomics research company Shardna.

Tiziana paid €258,000 ($285,000) for the biobank, which it said included 230,000 biological samples from the almost 13,000 fully genealogically linked residents of Sardinia’s Ogliastra region.

The genetically homogeneous community has certified record data that traces back genealogy over 400 years, supplemented with genotyping data and clinical status. This high level of characterization within the well-maintained records has resulted in a biobank that is a uniquely rich and a potentially valuable source of scientific data, according to Tiziana.

“This transaction provides access to a unique biorepository, which we can now leverage and combine the massive power and low cost of next-generation gene sequencing with the full complement of '-omics' technologies,” Tiziana's Chairman and founder, Gabriele Cerrone, said in a statement.

Cerrone noted that Sardinia is one of only three regions in the world with an exceptionally high proportion of centenarians. Sardinia’s Ogliastra region has a prevalence of centenarians almost 50 times that of the U.S. or U.K. Those inhabitants have the second highest longevity after Okinawa Island, Japan.

Ogliastra and the neighboring province of Nuoro share a longevity “Blue Zone” within a mountainous region of Sardinia where villages have been isolated for centuries. The Blue Zone shows a value of the Extreme Longevity Index computed for newborns between 1880 and 1900 that is more than twice as high as that of all of Sardinia, Tiziana said.

Even more striking to researchers, the female/male ratio among centenarians in the population is close to one, as 47 male centenarians and 44 female centenarians have been found.

“The opportunity is to generate valuable insights into gene regulatory networks, genotype–phenotype linkage, and gene–environment interactions that will feed into and inform our drug discovery and diagnostic programs,” Cerrone stated.

The acquisition of Shardna “represents an opportunity to study a unique collection of DNA samples from a homogeneous and well-characterized population,” added Napoleone Ferrara, M.D., a member of Tiziana's Scientific Advisory Board. He is also senior deputy director for basic sciences at University of California's Moores Cancer Center in San Diego and distinguished professor of pathology at the UC  School of Medicine, also in San Diego.

Tiziana added that it has established an Italian subsidiary in Sardinia, LonGevia Genomics, focused on developing the biobank. The buyer said it will identify novel drug targets and diagnostic applications, through integration with its global research network.

Founded in 2000, Shardna was created through a public private partnership as the first Italian company in the field of genomics research. Shardna’s research focused on identifying genetic and environmental factors that carry a predisposition to common multifactorial diseases through the study of the genetically homogeneous population from the isolated communities in the Ogliastra region.

Italy appears to be especially fertile ground for longevity studies. Earlier this year, researchers from University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and University of Rome La Sapienza began examining some 300 centenarians living in the Italian coastal village of Acciaroli, where Ernest Hemingway is said to have drawn inspiration for his novel “The Old Man and the Sea.”

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