The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource was established to further clinical research within the UK by assisting researchers with volunteer recruitment, specifically volunteer recruitment by genotype and/or phenotype. Researchers can apply to the NIHR BioResource if they are interested in recalling volunteers from the panel. For more details on the application process please read our Application Process page.
The unique benefit of the NIHR BioResource is that researchers are able to select volunteers for studies based on their genetic make-up or on other characteristics, such as markers in their blood cells. All of us have slight variations in our genes and these determine traits such as eye colour, skin colour, hair growth and height. It is also combinations of these variations that can predispose or protect an individual to certain diseases.
Why is the NIHR BioResource approach to volunteer selection so successful?
Using typical methods of volunteer recruitment, such as poster adverts or recruitment through clinics, researchers are only able to target volunteers based on criteria such as age, gender and ethnicity. Using these methods, researchers would need to recruit very large numbers of volunteers who fit their basic criteria in order to find sufficient volunteers with a particular genetic make-up of interest. For example, a researcher looking to recruit volunteers with a common genetic variation that occurs in approximately 1 in 10 people would have to recruit approximately 500 volunteers in order to find 50 volunteers with the genetic variation of interest. This would result in a costly and lengthy recruitment process, which would impact on the feasibility of the study.
Using the NIHR BioResource, DNA samples are screened in advance of volunteer selection for the particular gene (or genes) of interest. Only those volunteers who are found to have the genetic variation of interest are selected for invitation. This means that valuable functional research into the causes of many diseases, that previously would have proven too costly or time-consuming, is now possible.