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Biobank counters critics

Rebuttal for scientists who question cost-effectiveness of huge UK gene project

Pat Hagan(pat.hagan@btconnect.com)

The UK Biobank project could cost billions of pounds without producing any useful results, according to Alec Jeffreys, the scientist best known for inventing DNA fingerprinting.

In the Daily Telegraph newspaper on September 6, Jeffreys said the costs of identifying millions of genetic markers from all 500,000 volunteers would be excessive. Focused studies on specific diseases such as diabetes or cancer could be more cost effective, he said.

"The project could soak up billions (of pounds), quite easily," Jeffreys was reported as saying. "My concern is whether a study constructed in that way will be effective at teasing out really quite subtle genetic factors influencing disease."

Jeffreys' concerns were backed up by David Goldstein, professor of genetics at University College London, who told The Scientist he fears the £65.1 million Biobank initiative is too big to produce the best scientific results.

"I am not persuaded that this is...

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