UK Biobank, a long-term study of health data from 500,000 UK volunteers, is developing its own cloud-based Data Analysis Platform in order to enable its extensive medical data to be accessed more readily by a broader range of researchers around the world. Funding for the Data Analysis Platform has come from Wellcome, and it will be developed by DNAnexus in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Over the next 5 years, the UK Biobank database will grow to 15 petabytes, equivalent to the amount of data created annually by the Large Hadron Collider. The data are currently provided to approved researchers for download, which requires a substantial amount of expensive local storage space as well as computing power. The continuing expansion of UK Biobank database requires a new approach that ensures that all researchers can use it, not just those with the capability to store and process very large amounts of data. Access to these data will remain, at all times, subject to the UK Biobank’s own non-discriminatory and transparent access procedures and protocols.
By developing its own cloud-based Data Analysis Platform, UK Biobank can make the data more easily and more cost-effectively accessible to approved researchers around the world. Researchers will be able to analyse the data on the platform, enabling quicker processing times and reduced storage needs at much lower cost. The Data Analysis Platform will undergo development and testing during the remainder of 2020 and the first half of 2021, being launched to all researchers by summer 2021.
Professor Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator, explained:
“The success of UK Biobank relies on increasingly large amounts of data on the 500,000 study participants being readily accessible to all researchers. This new platform will democratise access, helping us to unleash the imaginations of the world’s best scientific minds – wherever they are – to make discoveries that improve human health.”
Following an open tender process, the contract to develop UK Biobank’s Data Analysis Platform was awarded to DNAnexus, a well-established cloud-based computing and biomedical platform provider. DNAnexus has an outstanding record of securely managing sensitive data. AWS will provide the computing power behind the platform and the data will be stored in the AWS UK Region. AWS have also pledged USD $1.5 million in research credits to support access to approved researchers from low- and middle-income countries and early career researchers.
Dr Mark Effingham, Deputy CEO of UK Biobank, said:
“UK Biobank’s platform will not only make the data more accessible to more researchers in principal, but also – as a consequence of the extraordinary generosity of AWS – it will be more accessible in practice. Free computing for researchers working in resource-poor settings and for young scientists starting out on a career in research is a fantastic way of increasing the use of UK Biobank’s amazing resource.”
Richard Daly, CEO at DNAnexus, said:
“DNAnexus is proud to be working with UK Biobank and AWS, two established leaders in this fast-paced industry, to deliver a novel Data Analysis Platform that democratizes data access, enhances productivity, and furthers understanding of this rich dataset. Over the past 11 years, DNAnexus has supported the diverse scientific aims of researchers worldwide, accelerating digital transformation by simplifying complex data analysis, clinical data management, and insights at scale. We enthusiastically support the foundational UK Biobank project as it breaks new ground in the advancement of disease research through the integration of deep healthcare data with genomics and advanced tools.”
Chris Hayman, Head of UK&I Public Sector, AWS, added:
“We are delighted that UK Biobank has selected AWS and our APN Partner DNAnexus to provide the cloud-based Data Analysis Platform. Using AWS, UK Biobank will be able to provide global and inclusive access to secure, scalable cloud computing resources enabling researchers to deliver scientific advances for the betterment of human health.”
Sara Marshall, Head of Clinical and Physiological Sciences, Wellcome, commented:
“UK Biobank is a uniquely powerful research resource, which is available to researchers from across the world. Initiatives that increase access to the research that we support are very important to Wellcome, and this new data analytic platform will ensure that the data remains accessible to researchers as it grows in complexity and scale.”
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