The UK’s largest ever health research programme to transform the prevention, detection and treatment of diseases

Our Future Health | 17.01.22

  • Our Future Health, the UK’s largest health research programme, welcomes first volunteers
  • Endorsement from 16 leading health charities for Our Future Health’s pilot phase to help accelerate research across a wide range of diseases and health conditions
  • Programme secures £100 million financial support from leading life sciences companies
  • Programme will help researchers tackle the growing burden of disease in the UK: 59% of those aged 65 or older in the UK have two or more serious conditions or impairments, projected to reach 70% by 2035

Our Future Health, planned to be the UK’s largest health research programme, has welcomed the first members of the public to take part. In 2021, over 3,000 people joined Our Future Health via partnerships with NHS Blood and Transplant and NIHR BioResource, following extensive consultation and input from members of the public. The programme eventually aims to recruit up to five million adults from across the UK to create an incredibly detailed picture that truly reflects the whole of the population.

By joining the voluntary research programme, people will be able to support vital research to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat diseases and health conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and stroke. A major focus will be developing approaches for identifying diseases such as cancer and heart disease before they become symptomatic.

Researchers from across the entire life sciences community, including academia, industry and the NHS, will be able to apply to study Our Future Health resources for their crucial research. Volunteers’ data will be de-identified and held in ‘trusted research environments’ that meet strict security criteria and an access board, including independent experts and members of the public, will ensure Our Future Health resources are only used for health research in the public interest.

Endorsed by 16 leading health research charities

Our Future Health has joined with 16 health research charities that are endorsing the pilot phase of the programme and providing valuable support and experience. These charities have brought their expertise in discovering and developing new methods of early detection and treatment of diseases and health conditions and are helping to develop the programme.

The charities that are endorsing the pilot phase of Our Future Health are: Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation, Blood Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Now, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, Movember, MS Society, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Parkinson’s UK, Prostate Cancer UK, Stroke Association, and Versus Arthritis.

Developed and funded through strategic partnerships with the life sciences sector 

Our Future Health has initial funding of £79 million from UK Research and Innovation, the UK Government-funded body that invests in science and research. This funding is being used to set up and begin to deliver the programme. Our Future Health also has NHSX AI Lab funding specifically to support the generation of polygenic risk scores and their feedback to participating volunteers.

The programme is also on target to raise additional resources of around £160 million from disease-related charities and life sciences companies that conduct health research and make the medicines, treatments, tests and equipment used to treat, detect and diagnose diseases.

Our Future Health is today announcing £100 million new funding from leading life sciences companies that are investing in and providing their expertise to support the design and delivery of the innovative products that will enable the programme to be successful. The new partners from across the life sciences sector announced today are Alnylam, Amgen, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Illumina, Janssen Research & Development, LLC facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, MSD, Regeneron Genetics Center, Roche and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

As well as contributing funding, these industry partners will work collaboratively with Our Future Health, bringing considerable expertise in discovering and developing new methods of prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases and health conditions. By making Our Future Health resources available to all researchers both from academia and industry, the programme aims to help accelerate the discovery and development of innovative diagnostics and treatments.

Professor Sir John Bell, Chair of Our Future Health, said:

“Progress in tackling the growing burden of chronic disease depends on strong collaboration across the life sciences sector and health system. 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.

“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 programme. 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 programme.”

Burden of chronic disease 

Despite advances in healthcare and medicine, large numbers of people in the UK still spend many years of their later life in poor health because of common diseases and health conditions. Our Future Health is designed to help researchers tackle the growing burden of disease in the UK, so future generations can live healthier lives for longer.

59% of those aged 65 or older in the UK have two or more of the following conditions or impairments: arthritis, cancer, coronary heart disease, dementia, depression, diabetes, hypertension, respiratory disease, sight loss and stroke. This is projected to reach 70% by 2035 (1).

The above conditions account for just under half (47%, 44% without depression) of the overall disease burden in the UK, rising to over 60% in people aged 75 and older. Over 70% of all deaths in the UK are due to these conditions (2). 

By helping researchers to develop new ways to detect disease at an earlier stage and identify people who are at higher risk of disease, Our Future Health is designed to improve prevention and treatment and ultimately deliver better health outcomes.

Data on detection and diagnosis of disease in the UK shows that:

  • Only 55% of cancers are detected at stage 1 and 2 (3)
  • 850,000 people are currently living with type 2 diabetes but are yet to be diagnosed (4)
  • Around 5.5 million people in England have undiagnosed high blood pressure (hypertension) (5)

Dr Andrew Roddam, CEO of Our Future Health said:

“Millions of people in the UK 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 UK’s largest ever health research programme to prevent, detect and treat diseases. 

“By building a world-leading health research resource that truly reflects the UK 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.”

Pilot phase of the programme

Participation in the pilot phase of Our Future Health has been limited to small numbers of volunteers while the programme is extensively tested to ensure everything is working well, before inviting members of the public to take part from Spring 2022.

Volunteers at NHS blood donor centres completed an online health questionnaire, gave their informed consent to link information from their healthcare records to Our Future Health and donated a blood sample.

Volunteers are also being asked to give their permission for Our Future Health to contact them in the future to give them the opportunity to take part in follow-on research and to offer them personal feedback about their health, if they wish to receive it.

In partnership with NIHR BioResource, Our Future Health has also recruited 500 people who joined the programme remotely and provided a biological sample by post.  

Dr Gail Miflin, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Clinical Services for NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“Our Future Health is a ground-breaking research programme that will help future generations live in good health for longer. We are delighted to be working in partnership as the programme develops. 

“Blood donors were able to volunteer to join the Our Future Health pilot phase when they gave blood at one of the venues participating in the NHS Blood and Transplant programme. These volunteers are among the first participants in the UK’s largest ever health research programme, which has the potential to transform the prevention, treatment and detection of diseases.”

Professor John Bradley, Chief Investigator of the NIHR BioResource, said:

“This is an exciting time for health research and the NIHR BioResource is pleased to have been able to support Our Future Health in our shared goal of accelerating research and improving health.”

Join the mailing list for updates

Members of the public who are interested in taking part in Our Future Health from Spring 2022 can register for news and updates. For more information visit www.ourfuturehealth.org.uk

For further media information please contact:

Kristin Hadland, Allegory Communications, [email protected], 07718111600

Vicky Bristow, Allegory Communications, [email protected], 07790957338

Notes to editors

Watch our video about the pilot phase of Our Future Health.

Our Future Health has recently published a tender for the processing, genotyping, and storage of biological samples from up to 5 million participants, genotyping data processing services and genetic risk score services. See News for further details. 

References 

  1. Kingston A, Robinson L, Booth H, Knapp M, Jagger C, project M. Projections of multi-morbidity in the older population in England to 2035: estimates from the Population Ageing and Care Simulation (PACSim) model. Age Ageing. 2018;47(3):374-80. 
  2. Evaluation IfHMa. GBD Compare 2021 [Available from: https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/ ] 
  3. CancerData, National Disease Registration Service, NHS Digital. December 2021. [Available from: https://www.cancerdata.nhs.uk/stage_at_diagnosis]
  4. Diabetes UK. 2020. [Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics]
  5. Public Health England. 2017, [Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-combating-high-blood-pressure/health-matters-combating-high-blood-pressure]

About Our Future Health

Our Future Health is a collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors. It aims to be the UK’s largest health research programme, bringing people together to develop new ways to prevent, detect and treat disease.

Our Future Health is committed to the highest standards, polices and processes that protect participants’ confidentiality, whilst maximising the opportunity to help researchers to tackle serious diseases. Participants’ data will be de-identified and held securely in trusted research environments that meet strict security criteria. There will be a robust and transparent access process to ensure appropriate research access to Our Future Health data and samples for registered researchers. All researchers – whether employed by universities, government, the NHS, charities or companies – will be held to the same standards.

Our Future Health is a member of the UK Health Data Research Alliance, the independent alliance of leading healthcare and research organisations establishing best practice for the ethical use of UK health data for research at scale.

Our Future Health is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (number 12212468) and a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (charity number 1189681) and OSCR, Scottish Charity Regulator (charity number SC050917).