Developments in UK biobanking

19 September 2007

The UK Department of Health has joined with UK Biobank in inviting National Health Service (NHS) patients to join the project. Biobank is currently recruiting people aged 40-69 (see previous news) for an initial health assessment and blood and urine sample donation, after which there will be long-term follow-up of their health outcomes. The project is seeking to recruit half a million people from the UK, and to create a unique data resource for researchers to identify key gene-environment interactions that affect health and disease. Professor Sally Davies, Director General of Research and Development at the Department of Health said: "An important part of the Department of Health's work is to stand behind research aimed at tackling important health problems and improving NHS care. Because of its potential for future generations, the government is glad to join with the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, and others in supporting UK Biobank” (see GovNet news).

A new (and unrelated) tissue bank has recently been established; OnCore UK is a tissue bank which will store blood and tissue samples donated by NHS cancer patients, for use by suitably approved medical research scientists. Chief executive Brian Clark said: "Many patients want to do something to support research into their disease and to help others in the future…OnCore UK can help people with cancer do this by providing them with an accessible and ethically approved way of donating samples and data” (see BBC news). Donors will have to provide informed consent, and although samples will be linked to personal health data, donor anonymity will be maintained.

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