ICMP and Verogen take a step forward in NGS technology

Verogen and ICMP Deliver Next Generation Sequencing

Hayman Mohammed Awrahim considers the scientific objectives of ICMP’s partnership with Verogen

The International Commission on Missing Persons and the US company, Verogen, have launched a partnership designed to adapt promising new systems of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) specifically applied to the challenges of missing persons casework. This opens up prospects for resolving difficult cases that previously could not be solved. The new system will also serve as a global resource in technical development and training.

Verogen is an offshoot of Illumina Corporation that is now dedicated solely to human identification applications. Under a partnership agreement with ICMP, Verogen has established the NGS capability – based on Illumina platforms and Verogen chemistries – at ICMP’s DNA laboratory in The Hague.
The partnership agreement stipulates that Verogen will “position and promote ICMP as the global leader for training in analysis relating to missing persons cases,” while validation of the NGS system “will demonstrate the utility of the MiSeq FGx Forensic Genomics System for missing persons analysis”, and create a global reference capacity “for the routine application of the MiSeq FGx Forensic Genomics System for missing persons investigations.”

ICMP will develop a training curriculum for forensic specialists who wish to apply the new technology. Training will be provided at ICMP’s Hague laboratory through its Center for Excellence and Training. Courses will be given by ICMP staff in coordination with Verogen, and will be grounded in the larger context of ICMP’s integrated multidisciplinary identification systems.
NGS technology makes it possible to generate more data from DNA samples. The MiSeq FGx system gives ICMP the capacity to carry out massively parallel sequencing (MPS) of Short Tandem Repeats (STR) along with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). “This gives us backward as well as forward compatibility” said Michelle Peck, ICMP’s DNA Validation and Development Coordinator. “The new equipment is compatible with our current system, based on STR technology, but also provides additional information with sequence data on the STRs and SNP calls.”
“The Illumina equipment will allow ICMP to help its partners from different countries who are working on missing persons identification,” Sabina Taslaman, ICMP’s Training Coordinator, said. “This facilitates the process of putting new technology into practice and it also represents a very substantial skills transfer, which is what ICMP’s Center for Excellence and Training was designed to do.”

The new technology increases the number of markers that can be simultaneously typed and increases the information gained from the STR markers, but providing sequence information. “This higher discriminatory power will assist in resolving cases in which the power of traditional STR kits is not enough,” said Peck. “This expands the scope for making identifications.”
ICMP’s DNA laboratory in The Hague is based on an integrated system that delivers a highly developed capacity to obtain DNA profiles from very difficult cases of unidentified human remains, such as bone samples from decades-old mass graves. ICMP has conducted the world’s largest missing persons DNA testing program, having successfully tested more than 50,000 bone samples and established a database of almost 100,000 family reference DNA profiles to support the identification of almost 20,000 missing persons.

Because of its specialized expertise and ability to test large numbers of difficult samples from human remains, the ICMP DNA Laboratory System offers a globally accessible resource for DNA testing. ICMP is able to provide DNA testing assistance in situations that involve thousands of cases, and it is able to conduct DNA testing quickly.