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UK Biobank releases world’s largest single set of sequencing data

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The UK Biobank has unveiled new data from whole genome sequencing of its half a million participants, representing the world’s largest single set of sequencing data.

The data, available to approved researchers worldwide, will help to drive the discovery of new diagnostics, treatments and cures.

Set up 20 years ago, the charity UK Biobank recruited half a million  volunteers to create the world’s most comprehensive source of health data. 

It is used by researchers around the world, from academic, commercial, government and charitable settings, for scientific discoveries that improve human health.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said: “It is an honour to represent UKRI during this landmark event for science, following our support of UK Biobank since its conception. 

“Researchers can now apply to access de-identified full genome data from half a million participants, alongside a rich combination of medical, biochemical, lifestyle and environmental data from volunteers involved.

“Today marks an important milestone in UKRI’s commitment to realise the potential of genetics for biomedical research, innovation and translation to the clinic.” 

The Biobank has supported a number of health advancements, including finding genes associated with protection against obesity and type 2 diabetes; identifying individuals at very high genetic risk for diseases such as heart disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer; and a link between activity and Parkinson’s that can predict the disease up to seven years before diagnosis from smartwatch data.

To date, more than 30,000 researchers from more than 90 countries have registered to use UK Biobank, with over 9,000 peer-reviewed papers published as a result. 

Researchers have the tools and computing power to analyse the de-identified data via UK Biobank’s secure, cloud-based Research Analysis Platform4.

Professor Sir Rory Collins FRS FMedSci, Principal Investigator at UK Biobank, said: “This is a veritable treasure trove for approved scientists undertaking health research, and I expect it to have transformative results for diagnoses, treatments and cures around the globe.” 

Image: Dave Guttridge, UK Biobank

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