UK Biobank has won support from many of the country’s – and indeed the world’s – leading scientists. Read some of their comments below.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health
“We owe a great debt to the 500,000 people who are taking part in UK Biobank. They do so because they see an opportunity to help others. Learning how to defeat disease is a partnership between patients and their families, the research community and the organisations that fund exciting and visionary projects such as UK Biobank.
“I hope wide and extensive use will be made of the UK Biobank Resource by scientists from around the world. Before long we may have a new generation of treatments and prevention strategies that can trace their existence to the generous people who joined UK Biobank and the scientists who have worked with them to create this unique Resource.”
Sir Mark Walport, Director, Wellcome Trust
“The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in health, by supporting the best scientific minds, and its funding for UK Biobank was based on this goal. Our vision is paying off. It is exciting to see this remarkable Resource, the envy of researchers across the world, being used to improve health. I feel sure it will surpass expectations.
“Importantly, UK Biobank shows what can be achieved when scientists and the public work together. Many of the most important advances in health have come from the study of the health of populations. Conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes are becoming more common in the UK and other developed and developing countries around the world. We need to understand better the underlying complex causes of these and many other conditions. UK Biobank will help us do this because it links health with social, environmental and genetic factors amongst 500,000 people from around the UK.
“I am grateful to participants for their commitment to this extraordinary project and, like them, look forward to seeing far-reaching results over many years.”
Dr Silvia Franceschi, Head, Section of Infections, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon
“We have observed the gradual coming together of this enormous plan to create the UK Biobank Resource – and very impressive it has been too. Gaining the support of half a million participants was a terrific achievement but now, from a scientists’ point of view, the real excitement and challenge starts – making use of the Resource to improve the health for people everywhere.
“UK Biobank may provide excellent opportunities to study not only the diseases that are most frequent in the British population, but also the rarer ones, such as cancers of the stomach, liver and biliary tract that predominate in low-resource countries. UK Biobank will provide high-quality information on the causes of these cancers that it is hard to hope could be collected in low-resource countries.”
Dr Teri Manolio, Director of the Office of Population Genomics, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), USA
“Scientists from around the world have watched with interest as the UK Biobank project has blossomed over the past ten years. I suspect that many US scientists will be eager, like our UK colleagues, to use this unique collection of health information and biological samples. UK Biobank builds on the traditions of many other population-based studies that have shown the scientific value of collecting detailed information on a large number of people, and then following their health over many years. UK Biobank is well-designed, cost-effective, and likely one of the best new scientific opportunities for identifying factors related to the causes of major chronic diseases.”
Professor Stephen MacMahon, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sydney and Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health
“I am delighted to see that UK Biobank is now open for business. As a scientist, I should like to thank all those people who are taken part – and turned this vision into reality.
“The UK Biobank project is widely regarded as a ground-breaking study that will deliver a wealth of new information about both environmental and genetic determinants of common diseases. In the last century it was the US-based Framingham Study that made fundamental discoveries such as cholesterol as a cause of heart disease and blood pressure as a cause of stroke.
“This century, UK Biobank looks currently set to be the talking point – on diseases as diverse as Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer.”
Professor John Danesh, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine & Head, Department of Public Health & Primary Care, University of Cambridge
“Creating a resource like UK Biobank requires vision and a bit of patience – but now that it is open to scientists we can see that it is very well worth the effort. Scientific reports regularly throw up possible new causes of illnesses – but very often these don’t get properly tested because the available medical surveys are too small.
“UK Biobank changes that. This unique Resource will enable the reliable assessment of the scientific community’s brightest ideas – current ones, and those unforeseen ideas that arise in the future.
“It is designed to be big and detailed enough to investigate the separate and combined influences of genetic and environmental factors on a broad range of common adult diseases. I know I am looking forward to using this exciting Resource and that many other researchers are as well.”
Alastair Kent, Director, Genetic Alliance UK
“The way in which our lifestyles, the environment in which we live and our genes interact to cause diseases is complex, and only just beginning to be understood. We support the UK Biobank initiative, and thank the people who have taken part. It will help unravel the causes of common conditions of later life which will surely help to lead to improved prevention, diagnosis and treatments to benefit our families and society as a whole for generations to come.”
Professor Tom Meade, Professor of Epidemiology (Emeritus), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
“Recruitment to UK Biobank has been completed surprisingly quickly as a result of the high level of public support for the study. Further information over and above the originally intended measurements has been collected, making the study even more valuable than envisaged at the outset. The dataset is now ready to be used by others with sound proposals, and so I hope this will soon be happening increasingly often.”