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Rapid DNA quickly becoming reality


DNA analysis is universally acknowledged as a significant tool for fighting crime and is the only biometric that contains specific characteristics passed from parent to child.  DNA is currently used to perform forensic identifications and provide leads in criminal, missing person and terrorism investigations.

Recent technological advanced are now being employed in the development of portable rapid DNA machines that are being designed for use by law enforcement officers in booking stations to initiate DNA analysis of arrested individuals much more expeditiously than in the past.

Although not yet ready for field or laboratory use, “rapid DNA” is not science fiction.  With several government agencies in the United States and Europe incentivizing development efforts, the first generation of rapid DNA prototypes systems have been made available for evaluation.

Lockheed Martin and ZyGEM Corp. Ltd. recently announced plans to release a version of their rapid DNA analysis platform that is designed to simplify and speed DNA analysis for human identity testing. Pre-production units of the platform will be released this summer to select customers in the forensic, homeland security and intelligence communities.

With the successful development of a fully-integrated cartridge device, new rapid DNA platforms will have the potential to transform today’s existing DNA identification process from one that takes a great deal of training, sophisticated equipment and time into a far simpler, more affordable process that can be performed in the lab or field in under 90 minutes.

Lockheed’s platform leverages the latest in microfluidic research and development to accelerate the DNA identification process, essentially building a laboratory on a small, single chip that reduces the processing steps and time needed for analysis.

Lockheed is targeting its rapid DNA system to assist the U.S. Department of Justice’s backlog of DNA requests.  It is expected that the technology will also be of interest to law enforcement agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Recently, field-testing also occurred of another mobile, rapid DNA lab service that yielded full DNA profiles to a Florida police department in two hours or less:

RapidHIT, the system developed by IntegenX Inc. and Promega Corporation will allow law enforcement to produce DNA profiles for human identification from mouth swabs and other human samples.

The RapidHIT service has been described as a breakthrough sample-to-profile biometric system because allows DNA analysis at the point of collection, such as an arrest or detention, setting a new standard in the usage of DNA profiles as an actionable biometric.

By contrast, human DNA samples currently must be transported or shipped to laboratories that rely on highly trained technicians using multiple instruments for analyses taking 10 to14 hours, with access to results delayed up to 30 days or more.

Already tested in multiple environments including field, office, and laboratory locations, RapidHIT is expected to launch in the U.S. and abroad soon.

It is expected that rapid DNA technology will also be commonly used on battlefields by the U.S. military and in anti-terror operations. Northrop Grumman won a contract last November to develop and supply human DNA identification systems to the U.S. Army, and unconfirmed speculation is rampant that prototype rapid DNA applications were used to verify Osama bin Laden’s identity after he was killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan last year.

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