Performing cohort-wide assays (i.e. in all of the participants at the same time) facilitates good quality control by reducing measurement error and laboratory drift that might occur with the use of different assay methods, reagents and equipment in different laboratories at different times. For example, some of the best available evidence on associations of biomarkers for cardiovascular disease 12, 13 and cancer 14, 15 comes from pooled analyses of individual person data from multiple studies (since none was large enough on its own to be reliable). However, because the measurements from the individual studies were performed in different laboratories with different assays at different times, it is difficult to determine whether variations between the study-specific results reflect assay variation or real differences between study populations 16. Availability of a standardized panel of biomarker measures in the UK Biobank population eliminates these sources of variability and allows direct comparisons of biomarker levels to be made across the whole cohort. In addition, performing cohort-wide assays is a much more cost-effective strategy of increasing the usability of the resource at an early stage when compared with the costs of multiple retrievals and assays of samples in nested case-control comparisons based on different subsets of the participants.

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