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A million blood and urine samples are stored in the UK Biobank.
The UK Biobank, a repository containing samples and health data from half a million people, is finally open for business after being in the works for more than a decade. The £62 million project, funded mainly by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, has tested one in every 50 people between the ages of 40 and 69 years, from across the country, between 2006 and 2010.

"What we hope now is that scientists will use it," says Rory Collins, principal investigator and chief executive officer of the Biobank, and an epidemiology professor at Oxford University. The idea is that the bank will inform research into major diseases such as dementia, diabetes, and cancer by allowing scientists to draw correlations with myriad factors, including smoking and body fat.

Its value is that "it's big and it's detailed," Collins says. Blood and urine samples, along with results of physical tests for hearing, weight, height, bone density, and lung function, as well as personal interviews, paint a thorough picture of each participant. By the end of this year, 10,000 of the...