S&T Uses DNA to Uphold Laws, Reunite Families (Multi-Video & More)

If you’ve ever watched any crime drama television show, you’re well aware that DNA can help crack the case.

But in the homeland security landscape it can do that and more thanks to S&T’s development of a technology aptly named Rapid DNA that reduces the 8 to 10 hour processing time for DNA results to 90 minutes.

We’ll be talking about how DHS components like U.S. Customs and Border Protection are using this commercially available tech on June 27 at 1 p.m. at our Facebook Tech Talk with S&T program manager Chris Miles and Melanie Glass from CBP’s Laboratories and Scientific Services Directorate.

Acting Under Secretary for S&T William Bryan
Acting Under Secretary for S&T William Bryan

I hope you’ll tune in to learn about how Rapid DNA is helping uphold a variety of laws, reunite families and catch criminals.

Developed by our Capability Development Support (CDS) group in conjunction with the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, Rapid DNA takes the place of multimillion dollar laboratories, with a standalone, fully integrated and automated desktop system about the size of a laser printer.

It is ruggedized for use in the field or in hazardous environments, and is incredibly easy to use.

Officials collect DNA with a cheek swab or by swabbing DNA left behind by a person, insert the sample into the desktop unit, and Rapid DNA can quickly verify familial relationships or match to a suspect.

How it Works

Rapid DNA

Capability for accelerated DNA analysis while reducing costs

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently relies on documentary evidence and testimony elicited during interviews to verify family relationships, an approach described as “resource-intensive,” “time consuming,” and “more art than science” by the USCIS Ombudsman.

After conducting a detailed needs and requirements assessment, DHS S&T found that DNA was the only biometric tool that could verify family relationships; however, existing DNA analysis procedures were found to be both costly and time consuming – processing of samples can take weeks and costs up to $500 per test.

(Learn More, courtesy of National DNA Database and YouTube)

DHS S&T initiated a program to integrate and automate the DNA laboratory processes into a ruggedized, transportable, rapid, low-cost system capable of verifying claimed relationships in about an hour, costing $100 per sample that is operable by field officers without any laboratory expertise.

Originating from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, S&T identified two companies—NetBio from Massachusetts and IntegenX from California—who met the requirements for making an easy-to-use, compact and ruggedized version of what you can find in the lab—bringing the forensic capabilities to the front lines at a fraction of the cost.

Additional applications with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are being pursued to counter human trafficking, identify mass casualty victims, and to reunite family members.

(Learn More, as Hatch Questions AG Nominee Sessions on Rapid DNA. Courtesy Senator Orrin Hatch and YouTube. Posted on Jan 12, 2017)

Rapid DNA

Because DNA includes an incredible amount of information, S&T built Rapid DNA to only examine the specific components that determine whether or not a familial relationship exists between two samples.

This ensures other DNA-related information remains private, which is a priority for S&T across many of our projects.

Notably, this technology is an example of how our projects at S&T can solve a variety of challenges across the homeland security enterprise—at a fraction of the cost and in much less time.

The requirement for the technology came from the need to establish kinship among families that are separated during a crisis, when time is of the essence.

Following its development, the use of the technology grew with local law enforcement officials in places like South Carolina, Arizona, and California who have been using this technology in criminal investigations with great success.

FEMA and CBP are determining how its capabilities can be used to help counter human trafficking, identify mass casualty victims, and screen against DNA watch lists through kinship verification.

DHS S&T banner

Rapid DNA is changing the way we do business. It helps solve crimes quickly, focuses resources, and brings families together.

Remember to join us on June 27 at 1 p.m. to learn more about how we’re using this technology!