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  • UK Biobank Releases Largest Single Set of Whole Genome Sequencing Data

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    Researchers from the UK Biobank (Image credit: Dave Guttridge)


    UK Biobank, a pioneering charity in medical research, announced the release of the largest single set of whole genome sequencing data from its half a million participants on Thursday, November 30. This major milestone, achieved after five years and over 350,000 hours of genome sequencing, represents a significant advancement in the field of medical research. The data, which is de-identified and globally accessible to approved researchers, combines with UK Biobank's extensive collection on lifestyle, health information, whole body imaging scans, and blood proteins.

    A New Era of Medical Discoveries
    Professor Sir Rory Collins FRS FMedSci, Principal Investigator at UK Biobank, described this development as a "treasure trove for approved scientists undertaking health research," anticipating transformative outcomes in global health diagnostics, treatments, and cures.

    UK Biobank has been a vital resource for global researchers for over 20 years, aiding in discoveries such as genes linked to obesity resistance and type 2 diabetes, and the potential early prediction of diseases like Parkinson's from smartwatch data. The new whole genome sequencing data is expected to dramatically enhance these findings.

    Technological Innovation Behind the Project
    This ambitious project, representing an investment of over £200 million, was funded by Wellcome, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and four biopharmaceutical companies: Amgen, AstraZeneca, GSK, and Johnson & Johnson. The sequencing work was carried out by Amgen’s subsidiary, deCODE Genetics, and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, using Illumina NovaSeq technology.

    The data is hosted on the UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform, powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and enabled by DNAnexus, providing necessary computing power and storage for global research access.

    Implications for Future Research and Medicine
    The addition of this genome data is poised to revolutionize biomedical innovations. John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Innovative Medicine R&D at Johnson & Johnson, explained, “This landmark dataset will enable us to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning for rapidly identifying novel disease targets and helping researchers predict how a candidate medicine might impact certain subpopulations of patients, based on their genetics. This could pave the way for more efficient clinical development and drive progress toward precision medicine.”

    David Reese, Executive Vice President R&D at Amgen, underscored the dataset's capacity to illuminate genetic influences on proteins, metabolites, and other physiological factors, enhancing understanding of disease origins.

    Democratizing Data for Global Research
    Over 30,000 researchers from more than 90 countries have registered to use UK Biobank, leading to over 9,000 peer-reviewed papers. "From the sequencing of the genomes themselves through to innovative and secure data storage, the release of this rich dataset marks a significant and impressive moment in scientific research,” stated Cheryl Moore, Chief Research Programmes Officer at Wellcome Trust. “It’s truly field-opening for understanding the interactions between our genetics, environment, and health.”

    Use the following links to learn more.
    UK Biobank: https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/
    UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform: https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/enable-y...lysis-platform

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