Largest gene sequencing initiative on world’s most detailed health database

Initiative will to improve drug discovery and disease diagnosis and deliver first data within a year

Sequencing of the full 500,000 samples from participants is expected to take three to five years

UK Biobank has begun a major research initiative with GSK and the Regeneron Genetics Center (RGC) to generate genetic sequence data from the 500,000 volunteer participants in the UK Biobank resource.

Currently, an estimated 90% of potential medicines entering clinical trials fail to demonstrate the necessary efficacy and safety and never reach patients.

Many of these failures are due to an incomplete understanding of the link between the biological target of a drug and human disease.

By contrast, medicines developed with human genetic evidence have had substantially higher success rates and patient care has benefited.

UK Biobank has been collecting information and samples from its 500,000 participants for the past ten years, and ensures that data provided to health researchers does not identify them.

The first 50,000 samples should be completed before the end of 2017. Sequencing of the full 500,000 samples is expected to take three to five years.

Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator and BHF Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford University, said:

“The costs of gene sequencing are falling, but doing it on a large scale involves highly-specialised capabilities and is expensive – with an estimated cost of $150m if all 500,000 participants are sequenced.”

“The initial investment by GSK and Regeneron will be a tremendous boost to the value of the UK Biobank resource for academic and industry researchers around the world.”

The RGC has previously sequenced DNA samples from more than 150,000 individuals and is now sequencing at a rate exceeding 150,000 individuals per year.

George Yancopoulos, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, said:

“Our large-scale sequencing and analysis capabilities, coupled with UK Biobank’s vast trove of de-identified biological and medical information, pose tremendous opportunities for clinically meaningful discoveries that can make a difference for patients.”

“We have long-recognised that advancing the pace and clinical utility of human genetics research requires collaboration and an open exchange of data between industry, academia and public health groups.”