The Sanger Institute was founded to sequence the very first human genome in 1992. The international project, lasting 13 years and costing $2.7 billion, was a landmark achievement in science. The knowledge of the DNA sequence that codes for a human has underpinned advances in medicine and driven biological research over the last 20 years.
The Institute now has one of the largest genome sequencing facilities in the world, and can sequence DNA at a rate equivalent to a human genome every 3.2 minutes.
UK Biobank is a large-scale biomedical database and research resource, containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants. Over 28,000 researchers from 98 countries use UK Biobank data, which is so comprehensive that it enables researchers to study the complete picture of disease risk, taking into account lifestyle, genetics and health factors.
In 2018, the Institute was employed to sequence the genomes of 50,000 people from the UK Biobank cohort.
Following that successful pilot, the Institute was then contracted, together with deCODE in Iceland, to deliver sequences for the rest of the Biobank cohort – the largest human genome sequencing project ever undertaken.
Here, some of the key people at the Sanger Institute reflect on what it took to deliver sequencing at such scale.