From today, scientists from all over the world can access a unique British resource, the Biobank, where data on the health and lifestyles of half a million middle-aged people in the UK will be available online.
Professor Sir John Bell, former head of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said the idea came from a number of international scientists and discussions have been ongoing for the last 10 years.
Professor Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator, said that as well as profiling half a million people and linking the data to their health records, there will also be 100,000 people who will have detailed imaging of the brain and heart in order to predict disease.
"What is special about UK Biobank is that it is very big and very detailed," he said.
When asked why it has not been done before and by anybody else, Professor Bell said that "it is a pretty big task to put together" and collect samples.
Professor Sir Rory Collins said that it has been set up as a resource for all researchers: "The more it is used and the more data goes into the database, the more valuable it becomes."
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