Big Data methods have the potential for thorough phenotyping in very large numbers of individuals, greatly extending the breadth (range of exposures and outcomes), depth (detailed assessment of individual conditions) and length (including over many decades) of phenotyping information that can be assessed. CTSU and the Oxford Big Data Institute are leading efforts to develop, evaluate and deploy efficient methods for acquiring and analyzing phenotypic information at scale and for exploiting these new opportunities for large-scale epidemiological studies.

The focus is on developing and evaluating new approaches to assess phenotype in order to enhance our ability to detect and quantify associations between lifestyle exposures, genetic variants and health outcomes in large epidemiological studies. Our approaches include:

  • Linkage with routine healthcare data
  • Automated and semi-automated approaches to establishing phenotype from routine data
  • Patient-orientated smartphone and web-based applications
  • Extending the phenotype through use of sensors & devices
  • Incorporation of imaging data

Each of these approaches is developed and evaluated to understand participant acceptability and scientific validity to address specific research questions reliably. The large-scale randomised trials and population-based cohort studies conducted by CTSU and our collaborators provide excellent opportunities to test, refine and deploy these approaches.

CTSU has developed the health informatics infrastructure that underpins the UK Biobank study, since its inception. This work includes all development, deployment and maintenance of all systems required for recruitment, phenotyping, record linkage, and data aggregation and sharing.

Organisation and Funding

The Big Data theme is led by Prof Martin Landray and is conducted in association with the Oxford Big Data Institute. Capital funding for the Big Data Institute has been provided by government (UK Medical Research Council, Higher Education Funding Council for England), charities (British Heart Foundation), and philanthropic donations (Robertson Foundation). The work conducted by CTSU is funded by Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, and Cancer Research UK.


Our team

lectures, webcasts and interviews

New Technologies for Healthcare Research
Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, January 2016

Big Data for Efficient Clinical Trials
National Academy of Medicine, Washington DC, October 2015

Big Data in Biomedicine
Interview, Stanford Medicine, May 2015

Big Data in Biomedicine
Interview, Stanford Medicine, May 2014

Big Data and Drug Discovery
University of Oxford Alumni, October 2013