Genetic Database in U.K. Expects Up to $320 Million in Funds

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Biobank, a massive collection of patients’ health and genetic information, is expected to attract as much as 250 million pounds ($320 million) in investment as Britain tries to bolster its life-sciences sector with Brexit looming.

The money is set to come from government, nonprofit and business sources, said John Bell, an Oxford University geneticist tapped by the government to oversee the industry strategy.

That would give a boost to the U.K. Biobank as the organization seeks to harness data from half a million people to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a range of severe diseases. It follows a collaboration announced in January led by drugmaker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to speed up sequencing of Biobank data.

Bell has been coordinating an effort with the British government to attract new funds to the field. GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. and AstraZeneca Plc were among more than two dozen global pharmaceutical companies that pledged to invest in the U.K. last year as part of a multi-billion-pound push to spur the industry. Companies are preparing to make hundreds of millions of pounds of additional commitments, Bell said in September.

Bell didn’t provide further details, and the U.K. Biobank declined to comment.

U.K. Biobank recruited 500,000 people between 2006 and 2010 to provide blood, saliva and urine samples, as well as detailed information about themselves. The sequencing effort started last year when Glaxo and Regeneron committed to analyzing data from the first 50,000 participants.

The Regeneron collaboration earlier this year with companies including AbbVie Inc. and Pfizer Inc. means the data will be available by 2019, three years earlier than initially expected, the companies said at the time.

The biobank was set up by the Wellcome Trust, the U.K. Department of Health, the Scottish government and other groups and also has received funding from organizations including the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research U.K., according to its website.

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