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  6. S&T Tech Uses DNA to Uphold Laws, Reunite Families

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S&T Tech Uses DNA to Uphold Laws, Reunite Families

Release Date: June 13, 2017

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.

William N. Bryan
Under Secretary (Acting) for
Science and Technology
William Bryan

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. 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.

Because DNA includes an incredible amount of information, we 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.

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!

Last Updated: 07/14/2022
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