The new head of the UK Biobank has tried to ease concerns that the project is an over-ambitious waste of money that is draining vital research funding away from other areas of science.

John Newton, appointed chief executive officer earlier this year, used his first public appearance last night (April 7) to outline the potential of the project to save lives and transform the treatment of illnesses. He told a meeting of politicians, academics and industry leaders that the bank — which involves collecting DNA samples from 500,000 middle-aged people in the UK — could allow scientists to pinpoint specific factors involved in certain diseases, ultimately leading to new and better treatments.

The meeting, organised by MPs, took place in response to calls for a public debate on the £45 million Biobank project. Last month, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee launched a scathing attack on the...

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