Headlines: October 9th, 2007

People in Wales are being urged to sign up for a multi-million pound project, which will shape healthcare for future generations across Britain. Biobank Cymru is the first scheme of its kind anywhere in the world and will provide a long-term snapshot of the health of those who sign up.

Over several decades the Biobank is expected to become an unparalleled source of information on illnesses including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, depression and arthritis. People selected to take part will be asked to allow Biobank to follow their routine health records over many years.

The scheme has been launched by Wales’s First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, who said his own recent treatment for a heart condition had shown him how the latest technology and research made the National Health Service the best in the world. ”But technology doesn’t stand still and health scientists need to continue to build a broader, richer range of data in order to understand more about how we treat such life-threatening conditions,” he said.

Biobank, he added, would be a fantastic opportunity for volunteers in Wales to do something positive for the health of future generations. Through the Wales Office of Research and Development, the Assembly Government is funding a mobile laboratory that will enable people in rural areas of the country to take part in the project, which is based at the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff. Volunteers will have to attend a 90-minute assessment and will be asked to provide information on their current health and lifestyles. A series of measurements will also be taken and they will be asked to provide various samples.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, said, “The Biobank will play a crucial role in our understanding of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses and help health scientists develop measures on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of such conditions.”

As well as being funded by the Assembly Government the scheme’s 60 million pound plus budget is being supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive and the Northwest Regional Development Agency and involves 35 centres across the UK.