UK Biobank has launched the world's largest medical experiment at Altrincham, Cheshire.
It has already sent the first 3,000 invitations to the first set of participants. The main aim of the project is to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, joint disease and many other serious illnesses.
AdvertisementIt also plans to reveal the truth of why some people would die before they get old.
But the project has attracted controversy from Prof Sir Alec Jeffreys of the University of Leicester, inventor of DNA fingerprinting.
He said that it could end up costing much more than the £62 million price tag, which works out at £120 per person for an effort that could last many decades.
The start-up phase have already begun and they plan to recruit half a million volunteers aged 40 to 69 over the next three or four years.
The project is one of the kinds and will gather, store and protect a vast bank of anonymous medical data, and keep blood and urine samples in two huge fridges.
This would pave way for the scientists around the world to get their hands on the samples and study in depth how the complex interplay of genes, lifestyle and environment plays a role in the disease pattern.
Prof Rory Collins, UK Biobank's Principal Investigator said that it will help us to go into the finer details and analyze large amounts of sample.
Biobank would use specially designed robots for blood sample separation and for storage, retrieval and tracking of blood and urine samples. They must be kept at between -80°C and -200°C for several decades in two huge filing cabinets which is in the size of a tennis court.
Participants will also have their health and body fat followed for years through routine medical checks and records. Prof Collins said that he hoped the Prime Minister would also take part.
The team expects that by 2012 there will be 3,000 breast cancers, 45,000 heart attacks and 6,000 people with diabetes among the volunteers.
Prof Collins also said that nobody would be pressured into taking part, and participants can withdraw at any time. Even the police cannot attempt to use Biobank data.
UK Biobank has been set up as a charity organization from the support provided through the Department of Health, the Medical Research Council and the Scottish Executive, and by the Wellcome Trust.