Cagliari centenarian ageTiziana Life Sciences, a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on targeted drugs to treat diseases in oncology and immunology, has purchased key assets from Shardna SpA, a biobanking and genomics research company located in Cagliari, Sardinia, for a total value of €258,000.

Tiziana has also established an Italian subsidiary in Sardinia, LonGevia Genomics Srl, specifically to develop these assets to identify novel drug targets and diagnostic applications, through integration with its  global research network.

Prof. Napoleone Ferrara, a member of Tiziana’s Scientific Advisory Board, states: “The acquisition of Shardna represents an opportunity to study a unique collection of DNA samples from a homogenous and well-characterized population. This could advance our understanding of ageing and other key pathophysiological processes and potentially result in diagnostic and therapeutic advances.”

“Sardinia is renowned as one of only three regions in the world with an exceptionally high proportion of centenarians,” commented Tiziana’s Chairman and founder, Gabriele Cerrone: “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. 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 programmes. We believe our management team, who have collectively been instrumental in the discovery and development of blockbuster drugs such as Avastin and broadly adopted diagnostics such as the PSA test for prostate cancer, have the capability, expertise and insights to discover new drugs and diagnostics to address important unmet medical needs using this biobank resource.”

The Shardna biobank, one of the largest and oldest in the world, includes 230,000 biological samples from the almost 13,000 fully genealogically linked residents of the Ogliastra region of Sardinia. This genetically homogenous community has certified record data that traces back genealogy for more than 400 years and is 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.

In recent years a number of biobank assets have been consolidated and vertically integrated with genomics, diagnostic and pharmaceutical/biotech companies that are vying to control access to samples of value for drug development. For example, deCODE Genetics, the Iceland-based genomics and biobank company was bought by Amgen for approximately $415 million.

This Ogliastra region of Sardinia has a prevalence of centenarians almost fifty times that of the US or UK. Indeed inhabitants have the second highest longevity after Okinawa Island, Japan. The longevity “Blue Zone” located in the provinces of Ogliastra and Nuoro in the mountainous region of Sardinia, where villages have been isolated for centuries, shows a value of the Extreme Longevity Index computed for the newborns between 1880 and 1900 that is more than twice as high as that of whole Sardinia. Strikingly the female/male ratio among centenarians in this population is close to one, as 47 male centenarians and 44 female centenarians were found.

Shardna SpA was founded in 2000 and was the first Italian research company in the field of genomics, created initially through a public private partnership. Research at Shardna was aimed at the identification of genetic and environmental factors which carry a predisposition to common multifactorial diseases through the study of the genetically homogeneous population from the isolated communities in the Ogliastra region of Sardinia.