Public Release: 

Wellcome Trust banks on Chinese cohort study

Wellcome Trust

The Kadoorie Biobank Study in China, one of the world's largest blood-based epidemiological studies, has received a £2.5 million funding boost from the Wellcome Trust to take it forward into the next decade.

The Kadoorie Biobank Study was established in 2004 with initial funding from the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong as a collaborative project between Oxford University's Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological studies Unit (CTSU) and the Chinese National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Since its launch, it has recruited over 500,000 men and women aged 35-74 from rural and urban areas throughout China. Over the next few decades, the health of participants in the study will be closely monitored.

Prospective cohort studies, such as the Kadoorie Biobank Study and the UK Biobank, are an important way of studying environmental and genetic causes of common conditions such as heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer. The information generated will help explain the large differences in the rates of different diseases between and within different countries, such as stroke, which in many parts of China is more than five times more common than in the UK. Such studies involve extensive data collection for each participant by questionnaire and physical measurements, including height, weight, lung function and blood pressure, and long-term storage of blood sample, and then monitoring the health of the participants over a long period of time.

"China is uniquely placed for large-scale medical research, and this study is borne out of more than twenty years of close collaboration between the two institutions," explains Professor Zhengming Chen from the University of Oxford, who leads the study in the UK. "There is a great deal of unexplained variation in disease rate and risk exposure and a high incidence for many common conditions such as stroke. Also, China has a well-established health infrastructure enabling long-term follow-up of mortality and morbidity."

The Kadoorie Biobank is integrated within China's national systems of health care and disease surveillance. This greatly simplifies the process of confirming causes of death as well as medical diagnoses and treatment for events that require hospitalisation. This is expected to be particularly useful in studying factors that influence the incidence, survival, and health care costs associated with various diseases.

"To date, the study has been very successful, recruiting 515,000 people - more than the initial ambitious target of 500,000," says Professor Liming Lee, the lead Chinese principal investigator for the study. "These people are drawn from ten geographic regions ranging from the far north of China to its southern border, providing a very broad range in disease patterns and exposure profiles. The funding from the Wellcome Trust will help to facilitate its further development and international collaboration."

The funding from the Wellcome Trust is for the next five years of the project. It will cover data management and detailed analysis, blood storage, long-term follow-up for cause-specific mortality and hospital admission, and validation of around 25,000 reported hospitalised events annually, as well as re-surveying around one in twenty of the participants.

"The Kadoorie Biobank is an exceptional resource which should provide valuable insights about the underlying causes of disease," says Dr Pat Goodwin, Head of Pathogens, Immunology and Population Health at the Wellcome Trust. "This will be particularly important in China, a country of rapid economic growth with increasing demands on its health care system from chronic diseases, resulting from increased affluence, an aging population and the adoption of Western lifestyles."

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