STRmix™, innovative forensic software, this year’s winner of the country’s top science award, was “born out of an urgent challenge”.
One of the key scientists responsible for the ESR software, Dr Jo-Anne Bright, says the closure of a forensic laboratory in Australia sparked the search for a solution that became STRmix™.
“The lab closed down after using internet software that proved unreliable. ESR was challenged to help them re-open and we saw that as an opportunity to start investigating software solutions to DNA profile interpretation as well as an opportunity to improve lab testing,” Dr Bright says.
STRmix™, which has just been named as the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Science Prize, is now the number one software for the interpretation of DNA profiles.
A survey of laboratories estimated that 100,000 cases worldwide have been interpreted using the product.
Dr Bright says while there is competition in the field of forensic analysis, the difference with STRmix™, is that it is fully transparent.
“All the algorithms supporting the software have been published and that transparency is really important for the criminal justice system.
“It has also helped the uptake - law enforcement agencies can see that it’s published and accepted in the science community, and, as well, we can teach the science to those agencies wanting to use it.”
She believes the product benefits from the reputation of her ESR colleague, Dr John Buckleton – seen as one of the foremost forensic scientists in the world - and she also points to the amount of published research on the software.
“We publish a lot of papers in this field; we are actively developing improvements to the software, always trying to find more ways we can get more value out of DNA profiles.”
Dr Bright says her team is honoured to be recognised by the award. .
“Really excited – there is a real sense of pride that we have created something that so many labs all around the world are using every day in their crime sample interpretation.
“We’re this small science team at the bottom of the world that’s become world leaders in forensic interpretation.”
The $500,000 prize money will be used to further develop the science behind STRmix™.
“We’ll look at ways we can use new technology to get more value out of DNA profiles, such as looking at artificial intelligence, or machine learning, to see if we can dynamically read a profile and that will lead to quicker turnaround times and improved work flows in a laboratory.”