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Development and validation of a fast and automated DNA identification line

      Highlights

      • FIDL is a fast and automated DNA identification line.
      • Automation includes analysis, contamination check, database comparison and reporting.
      • The software development, validation and implementation in casework is described.
      • FIDL provides investigative leads at early stages of the investigation.

      Abstract

      The importance of DNA evidence for gaining investigative leads demands a fast workflow for forensic DNA profiling performed in large volumes. Therefore, we developed software solutions for automated DNA profile analysis, contamination check, major donor inference, DNA database (DDB) comparison and reporting of the conclusions. This represents the Fast DNA IDentification Line (FIDL) and this study describes its development, validation and implementation in criminal casework at the authors’ institute. This first implementation regards single donor profiles and major contributors to mixtures. The validation included testing of the software components on their own and examination of the performance of different DDB search strategies. Furthermore, end-to-end testing was performed under three conditions: (1) testing of scenarios that can occur in DNA casework practice, (2) tests using three months of previous casework data, and (3) testing in a casework production environment in parallel to standard casework practices. The same DNA database candidates were retrieved by this automated line as by the manual workflow. The data flow was correct, results were reproducible and robust, results requiring manual analysis were correctly flagged, and reported results were as expected. Overall, we found FIDL valid for use in casework practice in our institute. The results from FIDL are automatically reported within three working days from receiving the trace sample. This includes the time needed for registration of the case, DNA extraction, quantification, polymerase chain reaction and capillary electrophoresis. FIDL itself takes less than two hours from intake of the raw CE data to reporting. Reported conclusions are one of five options: (1) candidate retrieved from DDB, (2) no candidate retrieved from DDB, (3) high evidential value with regards to reference within the case, (4) results require examination of expert, or (5) insufficient amount of DNA obtained to generate a DNA profile. In our current process, the automated report is sent within three working days and a complete report, with confirmation of the FIDL results, and signed by a reporting officer is sent at a later time. The signed report may include additional analyses regarding e.g. minor contributors. The automated report with first case results is quickly available to the police enabling them to act upon the DNA results prior to receiving the full DNA report. This line enables a uniform and efficient manner of handling large numbers of traces and cases and provides high value investigative leads in the early stages of the investigation.

      Keywords

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