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Biobank investment

24th August 2006

15032006_specimentube1.jpgThe UK Biobank, which is the largest study into the genetic and environmental causes of disease, is now ready to be rolled out across the UK.

It aims to obtain DNA samples from up to 500,000 people aged 40-69 and track their health.

Following a three-month pilot around Manchester the project received unanimous support from a team of international experts and its financial sponsors.  The £61m project is being funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust, the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive and the North West Regional Development Agency. It is hoped the database will be used to find cures for illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  

Over the period of a three to four-year recruitment period, there will be around 35 centres in England, Scotland and Wales, each open for about six months. Participants will have blood and urine samples collected, to be monitored for up to 30 years.

The project will gather, store and protect a vast bank of medical data and material with the aim of giving accredited researchers a strong resource to examine the interplay of genes, lifestyle and environment affecting disease.

A report by the independent International Review Panel praised the planning of the project and said it had the potential, not currently available elsewhere, to support a wide range of research. It also praised the way it had dealt with potential ethical problems.

UK Biobank's Principal Investigator, Professor Rory Collins, said the' UK Biobank resource should provide researchers around the world with vital insights into some of the most distressing diseases of middle and old age.'

Andy Burnham, Health Minister, said the endorsement of Biobank showed the UK was at the forefront of applying new genetics-based knowledge for the benefit of patients.

UK Biobank does not have universal support. Some leading medical researchers are concerned that study will be superficial, saying it will be difficult to accurately track lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise of 500,000 people.

Details of the UK Biobank can be found on their website at http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/.

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