September 27, 2017 -
The International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) released its latest policy paper, “The Emergence of Rapid DNA Technology,” following President Trump’s recent signing of the Rapid DNA Act.
IBIA explains in the paper that current rapid DNA offerings usually comprise of a desktop instrument to process single-use cartridges containing chemical processing agents and analysis materials.
The analysis operation begins automatically after samples are inserted into the instrument, and the self-calibrating system allows anyone with approximately an hour of training to operate the equipment.
Rapid DNA typically takes about 75 to 90 minutes to process, facilitating faster identification of criminals who might otherwise only be held for two hours or more.
IBIA emphasizes that expanded availability of rapid DNA technology could play a key role in exonerating or excluding suspects, further improving the efficiency of investigations.
Several companies around the globe are developing rapid DNA analysis technologies.
Instruments typically cost $250,000 to $350,000 per order with single-use processing kits ranging from $250 to $350 each.
IBIA projects that as the market for such capabilities increases, the cost will likely decline rapidly.
Since most DNA sequences are common in all humans, only a small fraction is relevant for identification purposes. There are known locations within the genome where these relevant sequences occur. The rapid DNA analysis process can isolate 20 of these key points so they can be measured.
Though there are several innovations that have helped to advance rapid DNA technology to its current state, they often involve micro-fluidic processing techniques.
These processes often use significantly smaller amounts of chemicals to reduce cost, speed reactions and compress instrument and cartridge sizes.
Previous laboratory based processes of sample DNA extraction (cell lysing), purification, amplification (or polymerase chain reaction or PCR), separation (or electrophoresis), and detection are now all done within one rapid DNA instrument, often on one microfluidic chip.
“Rapid DNA is an impressive advancement,” explains Tovah LaDier, managing director of IBIA. “It merges the power of DNA analysis – with its unique ability to infer familial connections – with speed, delivering results in as little as 90 minutes while also significantly reducing the cost of DNA analysis and large backlogs. This combination has the potential to be a game-changer, with applications in a range of law enforcement, security, and humanitarian scenarios.”
IBIA notes that FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Judiciary Committee in December 2015, where he discussed his vision of rapid DNA technology use by law enforcement agencies at booking stations across the U.S.
He outlined several benefits of the technology, including the fact that it could be used by law enforcement and other government agencies for humanitarian purposes, such as reuniting families separated during mass migration of persons fleeing conflict zones or disaster areas; preventing human trafficking by criminals who falsely claim familial relationships with their captives when intercepted by authorities; and helping authorities in natural disaster or conflict situations in identifying mass casualty victims..
Comey also listed several challenges regarding rapid DNA that the industry must overcome, including current technology not supporting all sample types (although the scope of supported types is increasing); pre-processing being required for some sample type; yielding rates (percentage of samples tested that result in a usable output) are still not 100 percent; the technology is still too expensive for some market segments, particularly cost-constrained police departments; and the limitations of rapid DNA in helping with the backlog of rape kits, as the effectiveness depends on how degraded the kits are (perhaps due to age).