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Next generation DNA

14 March 2018

DNA profiling

As profiling of DNA, and its sister compound RNA, continues to evolve, ESR is at the forefront of research and development in this area with a thriving research programme and product development.

ESR provides a range of DNA profiling techniques to the criminal justice community in New Zealand and around the world.

Two genomics and informatics projects will further develop Massive Parallel Sequencing (MPS) analysis capabilities and forensic-specific outputs this year. The Forensic Genomics project is developing intelligence outputs which will enable our forensic biology experts to determine an individual’s ancestry, physical characteristics and age from an unknown sample.

MPS is also being used to develop our RNA expertise to enable us to determine the type of body fluid present in a sample. This takes our expertise beyond defining ‘who’ is present in a sample, to determine 'what' is present, and help answer how it might have got there. Supporting both projects is our Mt Albert Science Centre (MASC) Sequencing Facility which is providing the MPS analysis outputs from the recently delivered Illumina MiSeq. machine.

Statistics and Bayesian interpretation has been ESR’s specialist expertise for a number of years. A new Bayesian Networks research project will build on this to develop a statistical framework for the relative weight to be attached to scientific findings, in relation to the activity that took place. This process will support the courts to assess and consider multiple pieces of evidence together and to better answer the frequently asked questions informed by our court experience.

ESR has a number of e-learning training modules available to up-skill our staff as well as other forensic organisations. The project will take our extensive training material and convert it into e-learning resources, making them more accessible and interactive. As part of the project we are developing virtual reality content to support learning outcomes in key modules, allowing trainees to experience and participate in forensic training environments rather than just reading about them.