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UK Biobank...only just getting into its stride

UK Biobank…only just getting into its stride

During UK Biobank’s Scientific Conference in 2021, Fergus Walsh, the BBC’s Medical Editor and a UK Biobank participant, likened UK Biobank to a fine wine, remarking that UK Biobank gets better over time in the same way the best flavours develop.

The exponential growth in the number of researchers from a broad range of research fields demonstrates the value of UK Biobank for enabling a greater understanding of why and how diseases develop. Thirty thousand bona-fide researchers from around 100 countries are now using the UK Biobank research resource, with over 6,000 scientific papers published to date. As more findings emerge, they continue to strengthen the database for new research projects, as analyses are returned and incorporated back into the resource in the spirit of open, scientifically peer-reviewed science.

UK Biobank is the most mature and widely accessible resource available to researchers anywhere in the world, and it will only become more valuable for generating insights into health as we continue to follow your health over time. We are driving discoveries to improve human health and your time, effort and support over the years will be repaid many times over by the scientific community in the decades to come.

"You're changing not only health and medicine but you are changing language, culture and the way people think about health"

Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar

Director, Wellcome

Ever-increasing scale and accessibility

UK Biobank is unique not just in the scale and richness of the data but also in its open access model which sets it apart from other health research studies around the world, making the resource as widely accessible to global researchers as possible.

To further improve the efficiency and accessibility of the resource, we launched the UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform, an innovative cloud-based technology, in 2021 following a £20M investment from Wellcome. This platform allows researchers worldwide to access and analyse the UK Biobank database in a secure online research environment. Approved researchers no longer need expensive equipment or large data storage capacity; all they need is a laptop and an internet connection.

We are delighted to have celebrated the one-year anniversary of the UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform and its use by over 2,500 researchers. We are continuing to enhance it for global researchers with new tools, greater opportunties for collaboration and increased accessibility via the platform credits programme. The UK Biobank platform credits programme enables access to early career researchers and those in lower and middle-income countries through the generous donation of $1.5M of credits from Amazon Web Services.

As a result, the UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform opens up the resource for a broader range of researchers, thereby enabling the world’s best scientific minds to conduct important health-related research.

The complexity and scale of the resource continues to expand and will grow to over 40 petabytes by 2025. To put the vast scale of these data into perspective, it would take over a century of continuous viewing to watch 40 petabytes worth of 4k ultra high definition movies.

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