UK Biobank Democratizes Data Access with its own Cloud-Based Data Analysis Platform

UK Biobank Data Analysis Platform

Among the many lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that the world remains dangerously exposed to the novel and unknown health risks, despite exponential developments in our ability to improve and prolong life. Access to the right data could help scientists develop faster responses not only for global pandemics, but also for long-term improvements in patient outcomes and quality of life for millions suffering from debilitating diseases. 

Which is why we are happy to collaborate with UK Biobank and Amazon Web Services to unleash the transformative potential of the unparalleled diverse dataset containing phenotypic, genomic, and imaging data from 500,000 volunteers. UK Biobank has enlisted the services of DNAnexus to help develop its own cloud-based Data Analysis Platform. Funding support has come from Wellcome.

As announced earlier this week, the UK Biobank Data Analysis Platform will enable its extensive data resource to be accessed by a far broader range of researchers. The Data Analysis Platform will undergo development and testing through the first half of 2021, with plans to launch to all researchers by summer 2021. 

Over the next five years, UK Biobank data will grow to 15 petabytes — equivalent to the amount of data created annually by the Large Hadron Collider. By developing its own cloud-based Data Analysis Platform, UK Biobank can make the data more easily, securely, and cost-effectively accessible to approved researchers around the world. AWS has offered the UK Biobank computational credits to be awarded as grants by the institution for students and researchers in low to middle income countries to support this work.

“This new platform will democratise access, helping us to unleash the intellects of the world’s best scientific minds – wherever they are – to make discoveries that improve human health.”

Professor Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator

DNAnexus has previously worked with UK Biobank and the Regeneron Genetics Center to deliver exome sequencing results back to the UK Biobank Exome Sequencing Consortium (UK-ESC) members, spearheaded by those two organizations. In collaboration with the RGC, DNAnexus also built a web application to enhance the data exploration experience with interactive visualization, filtering, and browsing of integrated phenotypic and genomic information. Designed to democratize data access, the cohort browser allows diverse teams the ability to explore thousands of phenotype fields and millions of genomic variants to rapidly test multiple hypotheses and gain insight into mechanisms of action, biomarkers, and drug targets. The browser was deployed using DNAnexus Apollo, a multi-omics data science platform, which is optimized for large-scale genotype-phenotype datasets such as UK Biobank, TCGA, and other public and proprietary datasets.

This partnership is just one important step towards a world in which data sharing and accessibility is standard. The analysis of UK Biobank data has and will continue to provide a significant contribution to leading-edge developments. 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.