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Italian research centre offers analysis and studies on ancient DNA and biodiversity, with applications in agricultural and food sectors

Country of Origin: Italy
Reference Number: TOIT20161115002
Publication Date: 15 November 2016

Summary

An Italian research centre studies ancient DNA and genome evolution in plant and animal species; its main research areas and application are biodiversity, traceability of animal and plant products and food safety. Analysis on ancient DNA are useful in ecosystems and biodiversity conservation; agricultural and food sector; evolutionary history. The centre offers its expertise and analysis services to universities and companies for technical and research cooperation as well as service agreement.

Description

*Background:
An Italian University research centre, in one of the most important Universities in Italy, is active in research and analysis on biodiversity and ancient DNA (aDNA). It deals with the study of the genome evolution, focusing on genetic diversity of microorganisms, plants and animal species. As part of the Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, the research centre is also active in agriculture and food applications. The staff of the research centre has a long experience in molecular biology and has been involved in several national and international projects.
The expertise of the research centre is based on the application of molecular techniques and markers for:
- the characterization of agricultural biodiversity;
- the traceability of food products of both animal and plant origin;
- food safety.

*Interest in the study of ancient DNA:
As demonstrated by the growing number of scientific studies focusing on this topic, characterization of ancient DNA is of particular interest since knowledge of the information embedded in a species genome allows to:
- better understand the influence of human activities on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
- optimise biodiversity conservation efforts;
- better manage domestic species genetic variation for agricultural and food applications;
- generate linked outcomes in both the agronomic and food production fields;
- add the time perspective to analysis of molecular variability;
- shed light on the evolutionary history of those organisms which, since the Neolithic, have accompanied humans during migrations and conquests, ultimately providing new layers of information on human history itself;
- make use of resources related to the ancestral variability existing in the agricultural species at the time of domestication or before intensive selection practices (by retrieving the information stored in ancient genomes).

*Analysis on ancient DNA:
One of the excellence of this research centre is that it is equipped with a special laboratory facility, dedicated to the analysis of ancient DNA, which represents an added value compared to standard services usually available on the market. The laboratory also hosts in-house facilities for positive air pressure and UV irradiation systems. All are managed by dedicated and highly trained personnel; this guarantees continuous training of the staff and availability of up-to-date technical skills and equipment, which allows to tailor the best solutions to the specific requests;
Access in those areas is restricted to trained personnel and both samples and operators follow a one-way route).
Samples are handled according to the standard aDNA protocols set up at the research centre:
° sample preparation and cleaning
° DNA extraction (including a blank extraction sample as a negative control)
° sample preparation for sequencing
all performed in separate rooms.
Extreme attention is paid to the avoidance of possible cross-contamination between different samples and contamination from modern DNA sources.

*Cooperation opportunities:
The research centre seeks scientific cooperation with other research centres, Universities or private companies involved in research and development in the areas of agricultural biodiversity, food traceability and food safety. The cooperation should aim at the co-developement of new path of analysis and research on ancient DNA as well as on joint involvement in research projects on these topics. In these cases, research or technical cooperation agreement is envisaged.

Moreover, the research centre also provides its expertise and technology on ancient DNA analyses to companies, associations and other entities as a service, each of which is tailored to clients' needs. In this case, the research centre offers cooperation under service agreement.

Advantages and Innovations

- The research centre is endowed with a special lab facility devoted to the analysis of ancient DNA;
- Results useful in agricultural biodiversity, food traceability and food safety;
- Services offered based on well-established laboratory techniques, optimized for the specific fields of intervention;
- Ancient DNA protocols set up at the research centre for samples analysis;
- Avoidance of possible cross-contamination between different samples and contamination from modern DNA sources;
- Services are already in place and available to interested partners (as demonstrated by past and current cooperation with private companies);
- The research centre also takes advantage of other in-house equipment and lab facilities (e.g. positive air pressure and UV irradiation systems) managed by dedicated and highly trained personnel; this guarantees continuous training of the lab staff and availability of up-to-date technical skills and equipment, which allows to tailor the best solutions to the specific requests;
- Researchers come from different University Faculty institutes (added value of the multi-topic knowledge and expertise).

Stage Of Development

Already on the market

Requested partner

- Type of partner sought: University, research centres, private companies

- Specific area of activity of the partner: involved in research and development in the areas of agricultural biodiversity, food traceability and food safety; entities which need or could benefit from such analysis

- Task to be performed: co-developement of new path of analysis and research on ancient DNA; joint involvement in research projects, national or international (under research or technical cooperation agreement); for entities requiring these analysis, the research centre also provides its expertise and technology on ancient DNA as a service (under service agreement)

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