Forum in Germany Examines Latest Trends in Forensic Science

ICMP was invited by the technology company QIAGEN and the Association for the Advancement of Clinical and Experimental Molecular Endocrinology to give a presentation at the 4th Investigator Forum in Mettmann, Germany, from 14th to 16th April.

This forum gathered around 100 scientists from 22 different countries including well-known researchers such as David Ballard (Kings College), Kees van der Beek (Netherlands Forensic Institute), John Butler (National Institute of Standards and Technologies), Manfred Kayser (Erasmus University), Peter de Knijff (Leiden University), Walther Parson (Innsbruck University), Chris Phillips (Santiago de Compostela University), and Peter Schneider (Cologne Institute of Legal Medicine).

Four workshops preceded the main session. Dr. Sylvain Amory, DNA Validation and Development Coordinator in ICMP’s Forensic Science/DNA Laboratories Division, attended the session focused on the application and value of non-STR markers in forensic analysis. The workshop, organized by Chris Phillips and Walther Parson, included talks on the use of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) for ancestry determination, the use of bioinformatics for data analysis generated on a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform, and the use of NGS for mitochondrial DNA analysis.

The main session was divided into four topics (i) validation and quality standard; (ii) standardization of markers across the globe; (iii) new and emerging technologies for forensic analysis; and (iv) experiences in casework. The sessions were punctuated by talks from QIAGEN staff introducing new products and services. These included new STR multiplexes, validation services, new forensic grade products and a range of products and software solution for NGS.

Several presentations focused on the use of certain kits or instruments and their implementation in forensic laboratories. The general and growing interest among the forensic science community in NGS became clear during the sessions. Some speakers who are at the forefront of the use of this technology, such as Peter de Knijff, Chris Phillips and Walther Parson, provided insights on the application of NGS in real casework. These presentations sparked discussion on the challenges the scientific community will face when it comes to implementing this new method. The issue of nomenclature was at the center of discussion and will have to be addressed by the international scientific community in order to establish a consensus.

Dr. Amory presented a broad overview of ICMP’s work, describing the origins of the organization and its evolving mandate, followed by a detailed survey of ICMP’s DNA laboratories and forensic Database Management System (fDMS), concluding with an overview of ICMP’s work on missing persons identification and DVI projects worldwide. Since this year is the 20th commemoration of the 1995 fall of Srebrenica, he presented some of the work done by ICMP in this context and concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in order to guarantee the success of large scale identification projects.