Developing a Next-Generation Forensic DNA Analysis Platform
Parabon® NanoLabs have announced the award of a two-year Department of Defense (DoD) contract to develop a novel software platform for forensic analysis of DNA evidence. Many analysis products support traditional DNA typing, however, emerging methods, such as high-throughput DNA sequencing (HTS) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping, require a collection of bioinformatics capabilities not supported by existing forensic applications. The platform created under this contract, referred to as "Keystone," will provide an open architecture that allows bioinformatic data from any forensic science instrument to be analyzed via software plugins that integrate existing analytical tools or implement novel analytical methods. Parabon will develop plugins supporting common workflows, but Keystone's architecture will also enable third parties to develop plugins for particular instruments or analysis.
Dr. Steven Armentrout, CEO at Parabon, says, "New DNA technologies like next-generation sequencing and DNA phenotyping have the potential to revolutionize the forensics field, and Keystone will be the first comprehensive forensics software platform able to analyze the gamut of genomic datasets."
The Institute of Advanced Genetics (IAG) at the University of North Texas Health Science Center will assist the effort. Led by Dr. Bruce Budowle, an internationally recognized leader in DNA forensics, IAG has developed some of the bioinformatics tools that will be included. Dr. Budowle stated, "The analytical tools developed by the forensic research community for next-generation DNA analysis are not designed to interoperate, and they require considerable expertise. Keystone will integrate these tools, under a common software infrastructure, facilitating the use of these powerful methods of DNA analysis."
The contract, funded by the Department of Defense Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Emerging Capabilities and Prototyping, is in response to a DoD Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) solicitation. The RIF seeks to facilitate the rapid insertion of innovative technologies into military systems or programs that meet critical national security needs. The goal of this effort is to provide DoD DNA laboratories with the latest forensic DNA analysis tools under a single, easy-to-use platform, but Parabon also plans to commercially license Keystone to DNA laboratories around the globe.