UK Biobank gets £127m funding to move to Manchester

UK Biobank, the large biomedical database, is set to receive £127.6 million to fund a move to purpose-built facility at Bruntwood SciTech’s Manchester Science Park.

This follows an application by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund to support UK Biobank’s development.

UK Biobank’s biological samples, laboratories, headquarters and around half of its 250 staff will move to the new facility.

The funding will cover a robotic freezer four times faster than the existing facility — to store and retrieve 20 million biological samples that have been donated by UK Biobank’s 500,000 volunteer participants.

The facility is being developed with the support of The University of Manchester, and will enable new projects to turn the samples into data and drive discoveries into how to prevent and treat a wide range of diseases.

UK Biobank CEO Professor Rory Collins said: “We are thrilled to be moving to a world-leading centre for genomics and data, where we can build on existing relationships with The University of Manchester.

“We are incredibly grateful to UKRI for their funding and support, which will enable us to consider new ways to enrich the data and make UK Biobank even more valuable for health research.

“The improved technologies and capacity at our new home will also make it quicker and easier for researchers from around the world to conduct vital research into common and life-threatening diseases and enable new scientific discoveries that improve human health.”

UKRI chief executive Professor Ottoline Leyser said: “UKRI is proud to invest in cutting-edge infrastructure across the UK to drive discovery, strengthen innovative businesses and improve public services, creating a wide range of high-quality jobs.

“UK Biobank is one of the UK’s leading biomedical science infrastructures, providing essential resources for thousands of academic and industry projects in the UK and around the world.

“Demand is growing year-on-year as UK Biobank’s datasets get richer over time.

“The insights enabled by UK Biobank have already driven change in the NHS and we look forward to seeing this powerful resource continue to thrive.”

Relocation to the Greenheys site on Manchester Science Park will provide UK Biobank with new opportunities for collaboration with multidisciplinary researchers and industry.

It will also offer access to additional talent due to the proximity to leading institutions operating across research, academia, business and the NHS.

The new scheme is subject to planning approval by Manchester City Council.

Bruntwood SciTech Director of Life Sciences Kath Mackay said: “Manchester is a world-renowned hub for science and technology, and the ability for UK Biobank to grow here is testament to the quality of talent, innovation and support within the city.

“The development of Greenheys represents the third phase of our masterplan to grow Manchester Science Park to more than 1 million sq ft of cutting-edge life sciences and tech space which, critically, will support the creation of over 2,500 jobs as Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor continues to thrive.”