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Scientists have announced that UK Biobank has released new data, which offers the most comprehensive depiction of human health to date.
The data from whole genome sequencing of half a million people equips researchers with the “ultimate toolbox” to make new discoveries about disease development possible.
Whole genome sequencing examines the complete genetic code of an individual, which consists of three billion building blocks.
The information could potentially assist scientists in examining individual susceptibility to common illnesses, gaining a deeper understanding of genetic disorders, and creating improved medications.
Professor Naomi Allen, the leading researcher at UK Biobank, stated that the data’s publication could potentially lead to the development of improved medications for conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and rare genetic diseases including Huntington’s and motor neurone disease, within a few years. This could also apply to various forms of cancer.
She stated that this could potentially result in more personalized healthcare, where an individual’s genetic composition can be used to determine their likelihood of responding positively or negatively to a specific treatment or experiencing side effects.
This information will also enable the precise identification of people who have a high genetic risk for disease. This can lead to interventions such as targeted screening and early diagnosis, or the implementation of specific preventative measures.
Professor Allen stated that the combination of data on lifestyle, environment, biomarkers, and health outcomes, along with the extensive amount of data available, makes UK Biobank the most comprehensive resource for understanding human health. This allows researchers to access a wide range of information and make connections and discoveries about disease development that were previously not possible.
UK Biobank has recently unveiled the largest collection of sequencing data in the world, after five years of work, over 350,000 hours of sequencing, and an investment of over £200 million.
Sir Rory Collins, a professor and the main researcher at UK Biobank, stated that this collection of data is incredibly valuable for scientists who have been approved to conduct health research. He believes that it has the potential to greatly impact diagnoses, treatments, and cures worldwide.
20 years ago, UK Biobank was established with the purpose of enlisting 500,000 individuals to compile a thorough collection of health information.
Scientists from various backgrounds, including academia, business, government, and philanthropy, utilize this tool globally to make scientific breakthroughs that enhance the well-being of humanity.
After a series of advancements utilizing the extensive UK Biobank biomedical database, sequencing data has been incorporated into the database.
This involves identifying genes linked to safeguarding against obesity and type 2 diabetes, potentially leading to the creation of novel medications.
Additionally, it involves the detection of individuals with a significantly heightened genetic susceptibility to conditions like heart disease, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. This knowledge may aid in early detection through screening processes.
Wellcome, UKRI, and four biopharmaceutical companies (Amgen, AstraZeneca, GSK, and Johnson and Johnson) provided funding for this project.
In exchange for financial backing, UK Biobank grants a period of nine months where only members of the consortium have access to the data.
Commercial companies are making significant investments to improve a health dataset that can be accessed by approved researchers worldwide.
The updated information, along with all other anonymized data from UK Biobank, is now available worldwide to authorized researchers through the UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform.