The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded the creation of a biobank that will store, analyse and share the data of from more than 35 million ‘biospecimens’ taken from a million volunteers within five years. The biobank is part of President Obama’s personalised medicine initiative that seeks to tailor treatments to patients based on their genes and disease sub-type.

The NIH said that it will award $142 million over five years to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to create this biobank and sample collection is expected to begin later this year. Beyond obtaining samples, extracting DNA and storing them, the Mayo Clinic team will also curate the samples for future research. Importantly, these data will be combined with other patient information, such as demographics, medical history and environmental exposures, to enable researchers to study individual differences that contribute to a person’s health or otherwise.

‘This range of information at the scale of one million people will be an unprecedented resource for researchers working to understand all the factors that influence health and disease,’ stated NIH director Francis Collins. The patients that contribute to the biobank will receive a participant identification number so that their identities remain anonymous.