By Rich Guerrieri
Traditionally, when DNA samples collected from a crime scene did not match either the DNA of a potential suspect or samples from various law enforcement databases, it would mean a setback for the investigation and potentially a dead end for the DNA evidence.
With recent advancements in next-generation sequencing (NGS), however, the investigation does not need to end there. One of the most important scientific breakthroughs in forensics in the last 20 years could lead to a way to unlock biological clues and indicators that were previously hidden within complex DNA samples.
The Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, identified thousands of biomarkers applicable to DNA-based forensics. With this important discovery, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) saw an immediate opportunity for applications within law enforcement. Currently, forensic analysts can use some simple analysis to match a known suspect’s DNA to the biological samples found at the scene of a crime, but extrapolating that same sample to the larger population is much more challenging.
To further develop this technology for law enforcement, the NIJ issued a grant to the Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest independent research nonprofit. In 2014 Battelle developed ExactID™, the first commercially available software tool designed specifically for the analysis of next-generation sequencing NGS data. With the help of this grant, Battelle will be able to further develop tools that use NGS to unpack the complex clues found within DNA evidence.
Read the full article in the January, 2016 edition of Law and Order.