Rapid DNA: An Overview

In the March/April 2007 issue of Evidence Technology Magazine, an article by Heather R. Fisher Sargent, MFS—“DNA in the Real World”—attempted to provide a realistic timeline for DNA analysis. This timeline started with screening evidence and ended with technical and administrative reviews. The total estimated time in 2007 was 54 hours and 15 minutes.


Now, there’s Rapid DNA.

According to an FBI fact sheet on the CODIS Program and the National DNA Index System, the term Rapid DNA “describes the fully automated (hands free) process of developing a CODIS Core STR profile from a reference sample buccal swab.” The goal of this automated process is to create field-deployable instruments capable of producing a CODIS-compatible DNA profile within two hours. In 2010, the FBI created a Rapid DNA Program Office dedicated to encouraging the development and integration of Rapid DNA technology for use by law enforcement.

During the latter part of 2011 and throughout 2012, manufacturers have pushed out new Rapid DNA solutions at an impressive pace. In a poster presentation at the October 2012 International Symposium on Human Identification, Erica L.R. Butts and Peter M. Vallone, both with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, provided a succinct overview of Rapid DNA typing. The poster, “Rapid DNA Testing Approaches for Reference Samples,” clarifies that there are actually three ways to achieve “Rapid DNA” results:

1) Rapid DNA Services—These private lab-based services offer a quick turnaround (less than two hours) in order to produce investigative leads. In the case of the Rapid DNA Service offered by Bode Technology, for example, law enforcement agencies send the forensic samples overnight to the Bode laboratory and are promised results by 11 a.m. the next day.

2) Rapid DNA Techniques—Using the latest available DNA kits, STR genotype results can be attained in less than two hours using standard laboratory equipment and protocols. In September 2012, for example, Life Technologies Corporation announced its GlobalFiler and GlobalFiler Express kits, promising the ability to process 48 samples in less than two hours.

3) Rapid DNA Instruments—These usually compact instruments are designed to be truly hands-free, allowing a simple “swab in, profile out” solution in less than 90 minutes. The eventual goal is for these instruments to be deployed into the field for immediate identification and investigative leads at the scene. Different versions of this technology have recently been introduced by the University of Arizona, IntegenX, ZyGem/Lockheed Martin, and GE Healthcare Life Sciences/Network Biosystems. Further, in November 2012, NEC announced that it is working on a suitcase-sized instrument with a “swab in, profile out” time of just 25 minutes. The company aims to launch the device commercially in 2014.

For more on Rapid DNA and DNA Databases, read the article from the January-February 2013 issue here.

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