At a glance: UK Biobank ramps up awareness campaign

What’s UK Biobank? It is a project that aims to take DNA samples from half a million Britons aged 40 to 69. It wants to determine how genes, lifestyle and environment affect the way we contract serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Interesting stuff. Who's funding the research?
It's got an initial £61m from the Government, Medical Research Council and The Wellcome Trust. That's a sizeable budget – but, then again, the project will run for decades.

What's its comms challenge?
This is a massive awareness-raising brief at the very least. The half-
million volunteers need to be signed up within the next four years to provide samples.

Is the initiative using PR support?
MW Communications is handling media relations surrounding its launch (PRWeek, 24 March). The agency's founder, Margaret Wilson, reports to Biobank CEO Professor Rory Collins and executive director Dr Tim Peakman.

What's the comms strategy for UK Biobank from here?
The plan is to recruit a few thousand volunteers in the North-West, before rolling the campaign out nationwide towards the end of the year. However, Wilson plans to retire from PR around that time.

So the PR contract could come up for grabs?
It is fair to assume that either another agency will be taken on before Wilson's retirement or a communications post will be created in-house at UK Biobank.

Who is the target of communications activity at the moment?
All medical bodies, essentially. Volunteers have to be invited to take part, they can't just simply put themselves forward, so UK Biobank wants Primary Care Trusts, GPs, scientists and other healthcare
players on-side. Broadsheet coverage has been strong so far,
along 'world's biggest study' lines, but the broadcast coverage probably could have been better.

In what way?
In a case of particularly unfortunate timing, the launch happened to be on the day when news broke that six men had been taken seriously ill at London's Northwick Park Hospital in a clinical trial for German company TeGenero's anti-inflammatory drug.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in