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In a recent interview on the BBC World Service programme Science in Action Professor Zhengming Chen explained how the seed of an idea grew into one of the world’s largest prospective studies.

In the early 1990s Professor Chen started thinking about the potential for a project that was to become the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB), a collaboration between the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. At that time the technology for massive scale analyses did not exist but he believed that in the future it would be possible to cheaply screen blood samples for factors that might be linked to disease.

In 2004, about a year after the first human genome was sequenced, the China Kadoorie Biobank received funding to start collecting blood samples from over half a million people in ten regions of China. Samples were put into long-term storage and now, nearly 20 years later, the technology is available to analyse tiny samples of blood for thousands of proteins and metabolites.

The millions of stored blood samples are bar-coded and linked to other data collected from the study participants including genetic data and information on lifestyle factors and health conditions. Professor Chen and colleagues from the NDPH Wolfson Laboratories described how this unique resource provides opportunities for endless research. Professor Chen predicted that over the next five to ten years the CKB will generate a huge amount of information that will enable a better understanding of the prevention and treatment of many diseases.

Listen to the interview : https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct369l (starts:11.40  ends:18.53)