Last updated Jun 17, 2020
UK Biobank is a major national and international health resource, and a registered charity in its own right, with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses – including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia. UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people aged between 40-69 years in 2006-2010 from across the country to take part in this project. They have undergone measures, provided blood, urine and saliva samples for future analysis, detailed information about themselves and agreed to have their health followed. Over many years this will build into a powerful resource to help scientists discover why some people develop particular diseases and others do not.
UK Biobank was established by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, Scottish Government and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. It has also had funding from the Welsh Government, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK. UK Biobank is supported by the National Health Service (NHS). UK Biobank is open to bona fide researchers anywhere in the world, including those funded by academia and industry. The medical research project is a non-profit charity which had initial funding of about £62 million.
UK Biobank has had additional funding for extra baseline measurements (such as the eye measures and saliva samples) and has core funding (currently until 2022) that covers storage of samples, and developing the on line access facility that allow scientists to use the resource. In addition to information collected during the baseline assessment, 100,000 UK Biobank participants have worn a 24-hour activity monitor for a week, and 20,000 have undertaken repeat measures. A programme of online questionnaires is being rolled out (diet, cognitive function, work history and digestive health) and UK Biobank has embarked on a major study to scan (image) 100,000 participants (brain, heart, abdomen, bones & carotid artery). UK Biobank is linking to a wide range of electronic health records (cancer, death, hospital episodes, general practice), and is developing algorithms to accurately identify diseases and their sub-sets. Blood biochemistry is being analysed (such as hormones & cholesterol).
Genotyping has been undertaken on all 500,000 participants and these data are being used in health research. GSK & Regeneron have successfully applied to exome sequence the samples. Data are made available for approved researchers undertaking health research in the public good. They are obliged to return their findings to UK Biobank when their work is complete, so that other scientists can benefit. UK Biobank hopes to follow its participants for many years, since this strengthens the resource. Though only people aged 40-69 years were recruited into the project, there is no upper age limit for participants.
If you are a health scientist from anywhere in the world, academia or industry, and wish to use the resource, you can begin your application process here. We have set out to make the system as easy as possible for you to access data, while protecting the anonymity of our participants.
The Quality Management System of UK Biobank has been approved by BSI to the following Quality Management System Standards:
Site inspection Report for UK Biobank HTA licensing number 12002. Licensed for storage of relevant material which has come from a human body for use for Scheduled Purposes 21-22 October 2010.