Wellcome Sanger Institute

UK Biobank Whole Genome Sequencing project

UK Biobank is a health resource with unparalleled research opportunities. UK Biobank data will enable the scientific community to understand, diagnose, treat and prevent life-changing diseases– including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia. UK Biobank is following the health and well-being of 500,000 volunteer participants and provides de-identified health information to approved researchers in the UK and overseas, from academia and industry.

Together with deCODE in Iceland, the Sanger Institute has read and assembled the whole genome sequences of 500,000 UK Biobank volunteers. The Sanger Institute sequenced 243,633 whole human genomes.

This was one of the most ambitious sequencing efforts of whole human genomes ever undertaken. Sequencing took place over 27 months, starting in September 2019. It built on the ongoing success of the pilot programme, known as the Vanguard project, in which Sanger sequenced 10 per cent of the cohort – 50,000 genomes of UK Biobank volunteers.

A dataset of this magnitude will be incredibly powerful for understanding the genetic architecture that contributes to diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, depression and dementia.

The £200m project was funded by a collaboration between the government’s research and innovation agency, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Wellcome, Amgen, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson*.

The first 200,000 UK Biobank participants were made available to researchers through the Research Analysis Platform.

The expectation is that sequence data for the entire cohort of UK Biobank participants will be generally accessible in 2023.

* Contract entered by Janssen Biotech Inc., one of the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson; collaboration facilitated by the Johnson & Johnson EMEA Innovation center in London, UK


If you need help or have any queries, please contact us at: contact@sanger.ac.uk

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Photo of Dr Cordelia Langford

Dr Cordelia Langford

Director of Scientific Operations

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