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Zhengming Chen holding a copy of his book and an image of the book cover.

In recent years, much has been written about the promise of big biobank studies, which have emerged as a key component of modern biomedical research. However, very little has been written by those who know how to make such studies work reliably and productively. Professor Zhengming Chen, who leads the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) at NDPH, has addressed this by producing a clear practical guide for planning, conducting and managing biobank studies. The resulting book, Population Biobank Studies: A Practical Guide, was published by Springer.

The book draws unique experience from the CKB, one of the most influential and largest biobank studies in the world. This long-term prospective study involves more than half a million participants recruited between 2004 and 2008 from ten diverse areas across China, including both rural and urban regions. The CKB went far beyond previous cohort studies in its methods, size and complexity, taking advantage of advances in information technologies, health record linkages, molecular biology, and genetics that became possible in the 21st century.

‘Through teaching graduate students, I became increasingly aware of the lack of textbooks that addressed how to carry out population-level biobank studies in the modern era of “big data”. Most epidemiology textbooks would focus on theoretical or analytic approaches, rather than providing a practical guide to those wishing to carry out such studies’ said Zhengming.

As the lead principal investigator of CKB since its inception in 2003, Zhengming is well aware of the practical challenges that need to be considered, from developing bespoke IT systems, establishing quality assurance systems, to recruiting participants across geographically diverse regions, and managing hundreds of thousands of biological samples. The new book provides many practical case studies of state-of-the-art, cost-effective, and scalable methods for establishing and managing large biobanks in different settings. A diverse range of NDPH researchers, most of whom are directly involved in running and managing the CKB, have contributed to the chapters, which are preceded by a foreword by Professor Sir Richard Peto.

Zhengming hopes that the book will serve as a useful reference for both those studying epidemiology and those conducting population health research themselves. ‘Through CKB, I have realised that the key to success lies perhaps not in planning for a perfect study, but rather in planning the most reliable, sustainable, and future proof study within the practical constraints of the available resources and capacity’ he said. ‘I hope this book will help to stimulate further development of large population- and hospital-based biobank studies across different populations.’

The book has been well received so far, with positive comments from several world leading epidemiologists, including:

This book will be invaluable for any researchers planning to establish new prospective studies, or indeed those planning to enhance existing ones, by providing clear and practical advice on how to deliver on their aims.’ Professor Sir Rory Collins FRS, Head of the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford 

‘For eager young students, and junior and senior faculty wishing to conduct research, this book represents one of the most informative texts available about contemporary research methodology concerning biobank studies’. Charles H. Hennekens MD, Dr.PH, Florida Atlantic University, USA

‘This book will become a landmark in the way the first monographs from the Framingham and Seven Countries studies have been foundational texts in epidemiology for half a century’. George Davey Smith FRS, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, UK.

Population Biobank Studies: A Practical Guide is available from Springer.