Science Minister David Willetts took time out of a busy schedule to tour the UK Biobank facilities recently.
The Minister of State for Universities and Science saw first hand how millions of blood, urine and saliva samples are stored in sub-zero temperatures to allow pioneering health research for many years to come.
Dr Tim Peakman, UK Biobank Executive Director, explained how UK Biobank is currently putting in place secure systems to allow the project to follow the health of participants.
UK Biobank is part funded by the Department of Health and the UK Medical Research Council. It is supported by the NHS. Health scientists are interested in the resource because of the detailed information it has collected on so many people.
The Minister was interested to hear how UK Biobank is now working with others to see how the resource can be strengthened scientifically even further.
The project is just starting to re-measure 20,000 participants from the Manchester area. It is also piloting an activity monitor – a small device which it hopes participants will wear on their wrist for a week, to tell more about their activity levels. UK Biobank has other plans which will make the resource unparalleled in terms of the information (anonymised – so scientists will not be able to identify the individuals it has come from) it can provide to bona fide health researchers around the world.