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Sequentia co-founders, Walter Sanseverino (left) and Riccardo Aiese Cigliano (right) with the company manager, Chiara Sanseverino (Photo: Daniel Portales, PCB).

GreeNC, the first database of non-coding RNAs in plants

Sequentia Biotech, a company based at the Barcelona Science Park (PCB), has developed the first database of non-coding RNAs in vegetal species: GreeNC. It is a repository of more than 200,000 lncRNAs annotated in 37 plant species and 6 algae that provides information about the sequence, genomic coordinates, coding potential, and folding energy for all lncRNAs identified. 


lncRNAs (Long non-coding RNAs) are non-coding RNA molecules (ribonucleic acid), ie that do not give rise to proteins- but that play a key role in the regulation of gene expression and in major processes of cellular biology: in the human genome they can act, for instance, as oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes, depending on the pathway in which they are involved or whether they exert a positive or negative regulation.

In relation to plants, despite the fact that is an area of research that has not yet been fully explored, studies validated experimentally have demonstrated that lncRNAs regulate important agronomic characteristics such as response to the lack of phosphate, flowering time and interaction with symbiotic organisms, making them of great interest in biology and plant breeding.

“Our goal is to provide the scientific community with an innovative bioinformatics prediction tool and a repository of lncRNAs of plants that will boost research on these important molecules.Thanks to GreenNC, researchers around the world have the opportunity to easily access all the information about lncRNAs of plants and share their results”, Riccardo Aiese Cigliano, co-founder of Sequentia, says.


Reducing the gap between genomic data and their interpretation

Sequentia focuses its activity on the field of bioinformatics, applied genomics and green  biotechnology. Founded by two young Italian researchers, Riccardo Aiese Cigliano and Walter Sanseverino, its mission is to create proprietary know-how in order to improve accessabillity to information produced by next-generation sequencing technologies (Next Generation Sequencing, NGS ) to achieve sustainable development that helps to improve food quality, preservation of the environment and human health.

The company diversifies its activities in several departments: SequentiaGreen (biotechnology, bioinformatics and genomics applied to the plant sector), SequentiaHealth (study of the human genome for clinical and diagnostic purposes), SequentiaResearch (R&D in new technologies and participation in international research and scientific projects) and SequentiaTraining (training and scientific dissemination activities).

“Our final aim is to create innovation in the field of genomics and green biotechnology in order to improve crops, reduce prices and increase the availability of pharmaceutical treatments against various diseases in the most needy countries. We are convinced that these two sectors constitute a strategic and sustainable resource for protection of environment, preservation of biodiversity and the welfare of humanity and the planet”, confirmed Walter Severino, founder and CEO of Sequentia. 

Thanks to the work undertaken by its department SequentiaResearch, this month of January, the Company has been among the 5 Spanish finalists of the international social entrepreneurship contest ‘The Venture’ with its project Artepharming, co-funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. The said project aims to investigate the development of biotechnologies from the plant Artemisia annua that has positive effects in the fight against malaria, as demonstrated by the winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine 2015, Chinese researcher, Tu Youyou.

A‘know-how’ validated by prestigious scientific publications

Sequentia is one of the benchmark companies in the field of genomics applied to green biotechnology. The company´s bioinformatics pipelines have been used in numerous research projects in the field of biopharmaceutical agriculture (biopharming) and its co-founders have published important studies in high impact scientific journals such as Nature, PNAS, and EMBO.

The sequencing of a nontoxic strain of the Aspergillus carbonarius fungus, published in Nature Reports (doi:10.1038/srep09086); the sequencing of the genome of a variety of potato, Solanum commersonii, published in Plant Cell as cover article (doi: 10.1105/tpc.114.135954); or the first comprehensive analysis of the genetic diversity of the melon, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution (doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv152), are just three of the seven scientific publications in which Riccardo Aiese Cigliano and Walter Sanseverino from Sequentia participated last year.

Sanseverino was also part of the research team that sequenced the melon genome in 2012. It was the first time that a public-private partnership in the Spanish State achieved the sequencing of complete genome of a higher species of plants (with flowers and fruits) and through new massive sequencing technologies. The work (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1205415109) was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).