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Forensic DNA profiling has become the accepted gold standard of evidence since its revolutionary introduction to the courts in the mid 1980s. Yet despite rapid and seismic advances in DNA science over the last decades the techniques used in the justice system remain much as they were when first introduced.

The raw pace of change in science in recent years has begun to undermine DNA credibility with ultra-sensitive recovery techniques delivering profiles from tiny amounts of cellular DNA. The reliable deconvolution of complex samples containing multiple profiles is now a key technological challenge.

In April 2017 a group of senior scientists from the medical and life sciences sectors, forensic biologists, industrial leaders, policy and legal professionals, Judges, academics gathered to explore the Future of DNA. They were joined and provoked by business modellers, filmmakers and writers as possible futures were conceived and debated over two days.

Drawing on their various perspectives the participants distilled key trends in forensic DNA ranging across demographics, regulation, economics, public expectations, technologies, customer needs and uncertainties.

The group decided on four distinct workstreams:

  • ‘The Future’ mapped a systemic approach to a healthier role for DNA with the ecosystem. This included exploring the implementation of DNA technologies which are mainstream outside of forensic science (for example in medicine).
  • ‘Complex Samples’ were identified as a crucial near-term challenge and a plan to better anchor this evidence in sound practice was produced.
  • ‘Transfer and Persistence’ of DNA is a longstanding question that is growing in importance due to the sensitivity of detection methods. A research road map was produced.
  • ‘Communication’ of the evidence remains challenging and a series of initiatives to improve this were devised.

Our collaborators include The Royal Society, London.

A map of the world showing strategic conversation attendees from April 2017

Attendees to the April 2017 Strategic Conversation

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We are undertaking a number of projects in this area and welcome collaborations.

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