MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Enhancing Biobank Research

How MRC HGU is contributing to global biobanking efforts

Biobanks are large-scale studies of volunteers. They are a valuable asset, with 1 in 30 people estimated to be members of a population study in the UK. The resulting biobanks contain a wealth of data and samples that can be used to study a wide range of health risk factors and outcomes.   The Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) group aims to recruit 4,000 people with ancestry from Orkney or Shetland into a new study, ‘VIKING II’ . This is thanks to the recent five-year funding boost from the Medical Research Council to the MRC Human Genetics Unit. The recruitment will take the total number of participants with Northern Isles ancestry, in the VIKING studies, to more than 8,000.  This will enable further research into important common complex diseases such as cardiovascular, eye and kidney disease. Details of how to get involved will be available soon.

The QTL group makes the data and samples it generates available and accessible, in line with the MRC’s policy on data sharing in human population studies. The ORCADES, VIKING and GS:SFHS biobanks have been involved in many internal and external collaborations.  All three are listed in the MRC online directory of UK population cohorts. It was created by the MRC to help researchers and policy-makers find and use these resources more easily.

Global Biobanking is a thriving market, with predictions that its value will reach $2.69 Billion by 2022. This is in part due to innovative new technologies such as whole genome sequencing, and approaches to precision medicine and diagnostics. Current market trends and future challenges will be debated at the upcoming Biobanking 2019 conference in Porto, Portugal.  One of the speakers about this fast-paced and growing industry will be Dr Shona Kerr from the QTL Group at the MRC HGU.


Viking II study

MRC online directory of UK population cohorts

Access ORCADES, Viking Health Study, CROATIA datasets/samples:

Access Generation Scotland datasets/samples datasets and samples:

Biobanking 2019 conference