R&D Organization Receives Grant to Study New Forensic DNA Tools

A research-and-development non-profit organization, Battelle, has been awarded a federal grant in excess of $800,000 from the National Institute of Justice to conduct feasibility and validation tests on a suite of new investigative tools that use next-generation sequencing (NGS) to unlock new clues from DNA evidence.

An explosion of genetic research since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 has uncovered thousands of biomarkers that can be applied to DNA-based forensics. Next generation sequencing takes these biomarkers to a new level that yields significantly more information than current DNA testing.

The suite of NGS tools to be tested includes new instruments, laboratory materials and software. These tools will significantly expand the level of probative information that may be obtained from forensic biological evidence, and includes a battery of specific biomarkers which provide increased discrimination power for identification, while introducing the potential of predicting physical and ancestral characteristics for investigative support.

Battelle, the world’s largest independent research and development non-profit organization, will work with some of the nation’s leading forensic laboratories to develop performance evaluation criteria. Using genomic DNA samples provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Battelle will coordinate and facilitate a series of inter-laboratory studies.

“Next-generation sequencing will significantly expand our technical capabilities to support forensic science, law enforcement, and ultimately the criminal justice system”, said Rich Guerrieri, Research Leader for Battelle’s Applied Genomics and former Chief of the FBI Laboratory’s nuclear DNA casework and database units. “Evaluating a technology’s reliability and assessing its limitations are critical steps in the development of quality practices and formation of a strategic roadmap for NGS implementation by forensic laboratories”

Laboratories involved in the 19-month study include:

  • Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, Dover Air Force Base, DE
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Washington, DC
  • California Department of Justice, Sacramento, CA
  • Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, Houston, TX
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD
  • Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA
  • Philadelphia Police Department, Philadelphia, PA

Source: Battelle

 
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