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Store for 20 million bio-samples opens in Milton Keynes

BioBank runs a smaller facility in Stockport. The Milton Keynes centre will be the largest in the UK. Photo: BioBank

The drive to find new and more effective treatments for serious illnesses and diseases is leading scientists and researchers to gather hordes of biological samples. As a result there is a demand for high-capacity, and hi-tech storage.

The National Biosample Centre in Milton Keynes will be officially opened today. The biggest store of its kind in the UK, and one of the biggest in the world, it has space for more than 20 million biological samples - for example blood, saliva and urine. These will be kept at temperatures as low as -196C, in order to preserve them for future use.

There is a push for more research to be done within the UK, to try to find new drugs and treatments - for example The 100,000 Genomes Project in which the Anglia region, in particular Cambridge, is playing a leading role.

The store will have capacity for more than 20 million samples Credit: BioBank

It is hoped that the Milton Keynes store will help leading researchers and organisations countrywide to deal with the operational challenges of running such large scale studies. Robots within the store will know the location of each and every sample, meaning quick and accurate selection. Researchers will also be able to monitor samples remotely from their laptops, allowing research to continue even when they are out of the UK.

The £24 million project was paid for by Government funding. The overall aim is to increase the UK's capacity for bio-medical and clinical studies, and to encourage more homegrown research.

"Our historic fifty year clinical data and tissue libraries represent a unique global platform for developing new diagnostics and precision medicines. Our investment of £1 billion per year into the NHS Research Infrastructure, and today’s opening of the NIHR National Biosample Centre - is a sign of the power of our NHS in research for prevention as well as treatment."

– George Freeman MP, Life Sciences Minister

Click below to see Olivia Paterson's report