UK Biobank funders have enabled the creation and ongoing development of a world-leading, prospective health study that is proving critical in tackling both immediate and longer-term health challenges.
We are grateful to the dedication and support of our core funders, who have committed core funding until 2029. This support makes it possible for UK Biobank to deliver on our aim of supporting the global research community to advance our understanding of the determinants of disease.
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 is a non-profit charity which has been awarded core funding of around £180 Million.
It has also had funding from the Welsh Government, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK. Approved researchers can access UK Biobank’s database (any legitimate researcher globally can apply to UK Biobank to conduct health-related research in the public interest).
Core funding continues to be received from the Wellcome Trust, the MRC, and more recently, from Cancer Research UK and NIHR.
Whole genome sequencing project
UK Biobank's whole genome sequencing project received funding from a range of government, charitable and commercial organisations.
There were two phases for the project: a pilot called ‘The Vanguard project’ of 10% of the cohort - 50,000 samples - with sequencing performed at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, with £30million funding by MRC.
Then, the ‘Main Phase’ project, to sequence the rest of UK Biobank’s cohort – 450K – which was funded by government, charity and industry:
- £50 million from the government’s UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
- £50 million from the Wellcome charity
- £100 million (£25 million each) from four pharmaceutical companies: Amgen, AstraZeneca (AZ), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
Sequencing for the Main Phase was conducted at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and deCODE genetics.
UK Biobank has received additional funding for the:
- Genotyping of all 500,000 participants (from the Department of Health, Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation)
- Measurement of biochemistry markers in all 500,000 participants (from the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK)
- Imaging of 100,000 participants (Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation) and re-imaging 10,000 participants (Dementia Platform UK)
- The whole genome sequencing of the full cohort (Medical Research Council
- Establishment of a research analysis platform (Wellcome)
- Repeat imaging of up to 60,000 participants from the imaging programme (Medical Research Council, CZI and Calico).
Research group investments
Approved researchers around the world are using UK Biobank data to advance health research, but first they must undergo our stringent vetting process.
UK Biobank’s Access Procedures allow researchers – whether they are academic or commercial – to request a short period of exclusive use of the data they generate. During this time, their analyses help to validate the quality of the data before it is made available to the wider research community. Examples of this include cohort-wide assays of whole genome sequencing, whole exome sequencing, telomere length and NMR-metabolomics.
Approved researchers will be able to access and analyse the whole genome sequencing data from within the Research Analysis Platform (UK Biobank’s cloud-based data platform). They will not be able to download it.
The biopharmaceutical companies who funded the project have had exclusive access to the whole genome sequencing data for the past 9 months and have started to work with these data - linked to all other UK Biobank health-related data since February 2023.