New funding for UK and Chinese biobanks

19 August 2009

At the end of last month the UK Biobank announced an additional £6 million funding from the publicly-funded Medical Research Council and Department of Health and the charity the Wellcome Trust. The announcement was made on the day that HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, officially opened UK Biobank’s £4.5 million archive facility, which will eventually store some 10 million samples frozen at -80°C, totalling around 9,500 litres of blood and 2,500 litres of urine (see freezer archive). 

The freezer archive is reportedly the largest of its kind in the world. To date, UK Biobank has recruited just over 350,000 of the target 500,000 middle-aged volunteers aged 40-69 for this longitudinal study of the impact of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors in the development of a range of chronic diseases (see previous news). 

For more information on UK Biobank, see BBC news feature.

The Wellcome Trust has also just announced £2.5 million funding for the Chinese Kadoorie Biobank Study, originally established in 2004 as a collaborative project between the University of Oxford's Clinical Trial Service Unit, and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, with funding from the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong. The Kadoorie Biobank Study has already recruited over 500 000 people aged 35-74 from both rural and urban areas throughout China; like the UK Biobank, the aim is to study environmental and genetic factors involved in common conditions. The Biobank is integrated with China's national systems of healthcare and disease surveillance. 

Professor Zhengming Chen of the University of Oxford, who leads the UK arm of the project, noted that China was uniquely placed for large-scale medical research, adding: "There is a great deal of unexplained variation in disease rate and risk exposure and a high incidence for many common conditions such as stroke” (see press release). The Wellcome Trust funding will support the project for the next 5 years.

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