Longitudinal Population Study Grants

Grants awarded: Longitudinal Population Studies Grant

Project summaries of Wellcome grants awarded under the scheme ‘Longitudinal Population Studies Grant’.

2018 Enabling structures

Dr Katie Harron

University College London

Efficient and transparent methods for linking and analysing longitudinal population studies and administrative data

For many years, researchers have collected data on people from childhood through to adulthood. Known as longitudinal population studies, data from these studies continue to shape our understanding of health and illness. 

More recently, health and social research has benefited from the increased availability of data that are routinely collected for other purposes, such as clinical, financial or government records. Unlike traditional cohort studies, which collect detailed information on a sub-sample of people at particular time points, these administrative data continuously capture information on whole populations as they interact with services. 

Linking these sources of data together has the potential to provide a deeper insight into what determines our health. However, linkage is not always straightforward due to data quality issues, which become more complex as more datasets are linked together. We will develop efficient methods for linking and analysing longitudinal population studies to maximise the value of these existing data.

Professor Madeleine Murtagh

Newcastle University

METADAC Data Access Committee

Some of the most important advances in our understanding of health and society are based on longitudinal research studies that collect data and samples from people over many years. Access to data and samples is often restricted to safeguard the people who contributed the data. 

We run an independent committee to approve applications from researchers to access data and samples from longitudinal studies in the UK. Our rules for making sure that access to data is safe and secure are based on best practice policies from around the world. We also ensure that the process of applying for access is fair and transparent. We include experts in science, ethics, law and clinical practice as well as study participants when developing our rules on access to data and samples.

We now want to strengthen and promote our systems so that more researchers can use data from longitudinal studies to advance knowledge about health and society and we will work closely with other organisations who keep data and samples from UK longitudinal studies safe and secure.

2018 Core support

Professor Zhengming Chen

University of Oxford

China Kadoorie Biobank of 0.5 million adults

Chronic diseases, such as stroke, heart disease and cancer, are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Understanding their causes in different populations can lead to improvements in risk prediction, treatments and prevention. One way of doing so is through blood-based prospective cohort studies, in which large numbers of apparently healthy people from the general population are interviewed and measured, and have blood collected and tested for genetic and non-genetic biomarkers. The health status of participants is then monitored prospectively to see who develops what disease.

We have established a large prospective study of 512,000 adults in China. We will maintain and enhance the study over the next five years, including careful identification and classification of different diseases. We also plan to make this resource available to the wider research community, so that new discoveries will emerge that will benefit people worldwide.

Professor Jaspal Kooner

Imperial College London

South Asia Biobank

South Asians are at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, renal failure and other chronic diseases. The reasons underlying this increased risk are not known.

We will create a longitudinal population study comprising more than 180,000 people recruited from the UK and South Asian countries. We will assemble data on health, lifestyle and environmental factors. We will also collect and store biological samples. We will follow up participants for health outcomes over many years, including for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cancers. We will make the data and samples available to researchers worldwide, so that we can better understand, prevent and treat a wide range of chronic illnesses that are seen among South Asians, who comprise a quarter of the world’s population.

Dr Catherine Mercer and Professor Pam Sonnenberg

University College London

The National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal)

The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) are the world’s largest, most detailed studies of sexual behaviour. People are randomly selected by postcode and are invited to participate. A survey has taken place every 10 years since 1990 with a fourth planned for 2020. Interviewers will collect information from nearly 10,000 people aged 15 to 59 using computerised questionnaires to ensure privacy. Survey answers will be combined with information from biological samples, such as urine to test for sexually transmitted infections, and routinely-collected data, for example from patient health records. 

Natsal provides a comprehensive picture of the sexual health of the nation and shows how this has changed over time and across generations. The findings will guide policy on services and interventions, such as chlamydia screening and sex and relationships education, to improve sexual health in Britain. 

Professor Timothy Spector and Dr Deborah Hart

King's College London

TwinsUK – An Epidemiological and Genomic Resource

TwinsUK is a large-scale health and ageing population study. We have extensive genetic and health data from more than 13,500 adult twins from multiple time points over 25 years.

We will maintain our scientific resource and continue to be the twin cohort with the largest amount of data available to scientists to use in the world. Since 2012, more than 800 research projects have produced over 600 scientific publications using our data. We now plan to link twins’ genetic data to their health records and work with other large UK population studies. We will also measure how different individuals respond to diet and other lifestyle factors. These developments will both enhance the scientific value of TwinsUK and enable us to provide a unique international collaborative resource with huge potential for research.

People we've funded

Many of our grantholders carry out research in Africa and Asia. See our directories: