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Newsletter 2020: UK Biobank plays a vital role in managing a global pandemic

"UK Biobank’s achievements over the last 10 to 15 years are remarkable. The vast quantities of genetic and imaging data are driving forward imaginative approaches to analysis that would have been impossible to predict even a few years ago."

Fiona Watt, Medical Research Council Executive Chair

UK Biobank was set up with the aim of enabling scientific discoveries that will improve human health, and has now grown far beyond what anyone could have imagined. UK Biobank contains a wealth of information on all participants (including genetic, biochemistry, lifestyle and imaging data) and has over ten years of follow-up data from linked medical records, making this an unprecedented resource to enable novel and robust science to be performed. The UK Biobank resource is now the most valuable and vast it has ever been!

None of this would be possible without the commitment of 500,000 extraordinarily altruistic participants, and it has helped us reach some important achievements this year:

  • Enabling vital research into the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The creation of a new online analysis platform so that researchers can perfom their analyses on the “cloud”, thereby increasing access for researchers from low-middle income countries
  • Release of exome sequencing data for 200,000 participants
  • Release of imaging data for 48,000 participants
  • Hosting a virtual scientific conference that was attended by over 5,000 attendees worldwide
  • Over 19,000 bona fide researchers have registered to use the resource from 80 countries
  • Over 1,700 approved studies are underway
  • Over 1,500 published papers

UK Biobank has been revolutionary in its approach to enable scientific discoveries, but never more so than in 2020 when the world has been faced with a global pandemic. The breadth and depth of health data generously provided by participants is accelerating discovery into understanding COVID-19, with over 670 research groups accessing these data, and over 60 papers already in the public domain.

We would like to thank all of our participants for supporting UK Biobank to become a major contributor to the advancement of modern medicine and treatment, enabling scientific discoveries that improve human health.

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