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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
University to manage gene bank
Gene lab
The university will have overall responsibility for the gene bank

A UK-wide gene bank set up to help tackle a range of diseases is to be managed in Manchester.

The controversial UK Biobank's co-ordination centre will operate from the University of Manchester, helping it to recruit 500,000 volunteers for a study lasting up to 30 years.

It was selected for the project by the Medical Research Council, The Wellcome Trust and Department of Health.

The ground-breaking gene bank will next year pool the DNA and medical histories of volunteers, aged 45-69.

It aims to produce a mass database - which will cost 45m in its first seven years - to help in tackling diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Parkinson's.

This is the latest in a number of recent important initiatives...reflecting the investment in genetics
Professor Bill Ollier, University of Manchester

Organisers hope people will provide a DNA sample and confidential health information, before they are then tracked throughout the study.

The new Manchester headquarters of the study of genes, environment and health will have overall responsibility for delivering the project.

Bill Ollier, professor of molecular genetics at the university, said: "Manchester welcomes the opportunity to host this landmark project to determine the contributions of both nature and nurture to human health.

Doubts expressed

Project director John Newton said it would provide "a profound insight into the relative roles of environment, lifestyle and inherited factors" on peoples' health.

"Even as we start collecting the data the information will provide a tremendous insight into the patterns of health and disease for our UK population," he said.

"But the really important benefits will come some 10-20 years down the line."

However, the Commons Science and Technology Committee have expressed doubts about the wisdom of the project.

The committee claims it may drain scarce resources away from other research, for no guaranteed gain.

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25 Mar 03  |  Health

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