Breaking New Ground in Medical Research: Integration of UK Biobank Genomics and Olink Proteomics Data

Advances in medical science now allow us to peek into the future of our health, thanks to the groundbreaking integration of proteomics and genomics. This approach provides actionable new insights into the biology underlying disease, opening the possibility that conditions such as cancer or Alzheimer’s Disease will be able to be predicted prior to the manifestation of symptoms.

Since its inception in 2006, the UK Biobank has been a cornerstone in the contemporary era of biomedical exploration. This extensive repository has been amassing a wealth of genetic and health data from over half a million participants across the UK. Fast forward to 2020, and the UK Biobank launched an ambitious venture, joining forces with thirteen pharmaceutical giants under the banner of the UK Biobank Pharma Proteomics Project Consortium (UKB-PPP). This collaboration leveraged the power of Olink® Explore 3072, chosen because of the data quality, to profile tens of thousands of samples.

Recent findings from the landmark study involving the UK Biobank data, and how this has been integrated into the Olink® Insight platform were recently presented in an insightful webinar by Olink. You may also be interested in a recent webinar presented by Dr. Ryan Dhindsa from Baylor College of Medicine, detailing an analysis of the links between rare gene variants and plasma protein levels from the UKB-PPP initiative.

Keep reading below to learn more about how the UKB-PPP work powered by Olink’s technology is setting new standards in proteomics. Olink’s improved predictive accuracy accelerates the development of more effective therapeutics, as well as helping elucidate biological mechanisms that underlie disease, thus shaping the future of personalized medicine.

Bringing endless discovery possibilities to the field of genomics

The UK Biobank has long been a treasure trove of genomic data. By analyzing protein measurements alongside this rich genomic backdrop, researchers have taken a significant step forward. The recent proteomics analysis covered nearly 55,000 individuals, assessing the effects of about 3,000 proteins on the future risk of more than 100 diseases. The scale and depth of this research are unprecedented and open up new avenues for precision medicine.

The study utilized sophisticated “time-to-event” analysis, using Cox regression models to explore how protein levels influence the risk of developing various diseases. Adjusting for factors such as age, BMI, and smoking status, the study unveiled a staggering 300,000 protein-disease associations. The results of the analysis are available as an open-access resource through Olink Insight, allowing researchers to annotate, search, and export disease risk associations for proteins of interest.

Olink Insight

Continue reading below to learn how to leverage Olink Insight for your research goals.

One of the most striking revelations of this study was the identification of 48 proteins with significant associations across multiple diseases. This not only deepens our understanding of complex disease pathways but also paves the way for the discovery of biomarkers that can lead to earlier diagnosis and more personalized treatment plans.

The UK Biobank has provided a unique opportunity for groundbreaking discoveries that combine genomic and proteomic data, enhancing our understanding of complex diseases and enabling more precise medical interventions. The size of the UK Biobank and the richness of its data make it an invaluable resource for researchers like you, offering insights that were previously unattainable:

  1. Protein Quantitative Trait Loci (pQTLs): The identification of numerous cis-pQTLs—where genetic variants within a gene correlate with the protein it encodes—confirms the specificity and accuracy of the proteomic measurements. This discovery is significant as it provides a robust framework for linking specific proteins to genetic data and their disease implications.
  2. Scalable Discovery: The analysis has shown that the discovery of trans-pQTLs, which represent interactions between genetic variants and proteins encoded by different genes, continues to grow with the increase in sample size. This suggests that larger datasets can yield even more insights, further enhancing our understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying various conditions.

By continuing to explore these vast datasets, you will uncover more about the intricate relationships between proteins and diseases, paving the way for targeted therapies and improved diagnostics.

A cornerstone open-access platform for high-throughput proteomic research

Olink Insight is designed to facilitate this journey, providing tools and resources that support researchers from study design to post-analysis interpretation. This commitment is why we are excited about every new discovery that helps unravel the mysteries of human health and disease.

To aid in the dissemination and practical application of these findings, a live demonstration of the Olink Insight platform was provided during the webinar. In the expanding landscape of high-throughput proteomic research, Olink Insight is a cornerstone platform, designed to transform the complexity of large-scale proteomic data into actionable insights. Olink Insight is your invaluable partner, guiding you from the initial stages of experimental planning through to the intricate details of post-run data analysis.

The webinar highlighted many key attributes that make Olink Insight an ideal platform for proteomic research:

  • Comprehensive Data Analysis Tools: With an array of statistical apps, educational data stories, and versatile analysis tools, Olink Insight simplifies the journey from data to discovery.
  • Study Planning and Design Support: Whether you’re investigating specific diseases, biological pathways, or gene lists, Olink Insight equips you with tools like disease search capabilities and study size calculators, ensuring your research is powered for success from the start.
  • Post-Run Data Insight: After data generation, Olink Insight’s statistical analyzers and resources like normal range datasets help you quickly transition from raw data to meaningful conclusions.

Why Genomics Researchers Should Embrace Proteomics

The integration of proteomics with genomics is set to redefine the boundaries of medical research. For genomics researchers, this integration offers a detailed layer of data that complements and enhances genetic insights. As proteins are closer to the phenotype compared to the genome, proteomics provides a closer look at the biomolecular activities within the body, offering a dynamic view of disease progression and response to treatment that genomics alone cannot provide.

The integration of proteomics and genomics represents more than just a scientific advance; it signifies a shift in how we can manage disease. With proteomics, we can expect more robust disease risk assessments, more precise biomarker identification, and more effective therapeutic strategies. It is becoming more apparent that proteomics, by adding a much needed layer of information to the genomics data so far acquired, is acting as a catalyst for our understanding of disease and its treatment, and is becoming a linchpin of medical research and patient care.

Engage with the Data

If you are intrigued by the potential of high-throughput proteomics, the complete disease association dataset from the UK Biobank study and relative detailed analyses are available for download from the Olink Insight platform. You are encouraged to explore this resource to uncover unique insights and opportunities in your own areas of interest.

Olink Insight

At Olink, the excitement about the advances that are being unveiled is palpable, especially when considering the tremendous potential for transformative impact on medical research. This reflects our deep commitment to empowering researchers through our innovative platforms.

To further explore the technological advancements and research opportunities enabled by our collaboration with the UK Biobank, or to re-experience the insights shared in the webinar, you can access our on-demand recording.

Join us in shaping the future of precision medicine. See you at the next webinar!