An ambitious new program launched in the U.K. dubbed Our Future Health has launched the pilot phase of its research with 3,000 volunteer participants recruited via partnerships with NHS Blood and Transplant and NIHR BioResource. Eventually, the program seeks to enroll five million participants as it looks to develop a broad view of the health of the country’s population while developing new ways to prevent and treat diseases and health conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and stroke.
The U.K.’s government funded investment arm, UK Research and Innovation provided an initial £79 million to fund the startup of Our Future Health. It also received NHSX AI Lab funding specifically to support the generation of polygenic risk scores and provide this feedback to participating volunteers.
“Progress in tackling the growing burden of chronic disease depends on strong collaboration across the life sciences sector and health system,” said Prof. Sir John Bell, chair of Our Future Health in a press release. “We’ve certainly seen how powerful it is during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rapid development and deployment of vaccines, diagnostic tools and treatments into the NHS at unprecedented speed and scale.”
The week, the research program announced an additional £100 million in funding from a broad array of industry partners including Alnylam, Amgen, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Illumina, Janssen Research & Development, LLC facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, MSD, Regeneron Genetics Center, Roche, and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
“Our Future Health is designed to harness the power of collaboration. The combination of support from industry and charities that we’re announcing today, alongside our existing funding from the government, means we’re on track to build Our Future Health into a world-leading health research program. Hopefully it will lay the ground for a bold new approach to healthcare in the NHS, focused on early detection and prevention of disease. We look forward to welcoming participants into this exciting program,” Bell added.
A major focus of the research program will be on developing new approaches to identifying diseases such as cancer and heart disease before symptoms develop. According to Our Future Health, only 55% of cancers in the U.K. are diagnosed at stage 1 or stage 2, and more than 5.5 million people in the country have undiagnosed high blood pressure.
“Millions of people in the U.K. and around the world spend many years of their later life in poor health. Our Future Health aims to tackle this and help people live healthier lives for longer, by creating the U.K.’s largest ever health research program to prevent, detect and treat diseases,” said Our Future Health CEO Dr. Andrew Roddam. “By building a world-leading health research resource that truly reflects the U.K. population our goal is to develop a more detailed understanding of what makes some people more likely to develop certain health conditions, so more effective tests and treatments can be developed in the future.”
During the pilot phase, the program intends to test its operations and procedures with the 3,000 volunteers to ensure its systems are working well. If all checks out, the program will open to the public in spring this year. Current volunteers recruited through NHS blood donor centers have completed and online health questionnaire, gave their informed consent to link information from their healthcare records to Our Future Health as well as a donated a blood sample. The program has also asked its volunteers if they can be contacted in the future for additional research, or to give them the opportunity to received personalized feedback on their health.