ICMP Laboratory in The Hague Utilizes New Technology for Human Identification

The Hague, 5 March 2019: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has made the first human identifications using technology now being developed at ICMP’s laboratory in The Hague. The matches were made possible by the hugely increased analytical power of next-generation DNA technologies, known as Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS).

“The use of MPS, which ICMP is developing in cooperation with academic colleagues and the international technology company QIAGEN, can achieve results in highly challenging cases, where current technologies have failed,” said Dr. Thomas J. Parsons, ICMP Director of Science & Technology, adding that MPS also enables identifications to be made between more distant relatives.

“We are excited to see ICMP successfully identify individuals once counted as lost, using state-of-the-art technologies developed through our longstanding collaboration. This collaboration has resulted in a custom designed next-generation sequencing panel perfectly suited for ICMP’s missing persons applications, and is based on QIAGEN’s GeneReader NGS System, and extensive support from QIAGEN in instrumentation, reagents, software and technical support,” said Dr. Thomas Schweins, QIAGEN’s Senior Vice President, Life Sciences Business Area. “Creating innovative Sample to Insight sequencing solutions to address the grief and unanswered questions left by wars, disasters and mass crimes is right in line with QIAGEN’s mission of making improvements in life possible.”

Since the beginning of last year, ICMP has worked closely with QIAGEN to develop a powerful single nucleotide polymorphism panel specifically designed for missing persons identification. The ICMP MPs-Plex targets more than 1,400 sites in the human genome, a much higher number than has been possible until now.

Dr. Parsons said the use of MPS “signals new hope for families around the world who are still waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones.” He said the number of new identifications enabled by MPS will be relatively small at first, but that it nonetheless represents a significant step forward.

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ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.

Since 2001, ICMP has operated a state-of-the-art DNA laboratory system focused exclusively on missing persons identification. The system delivers high-throughput capabilities to assist governments in identifying large numbers of missing persons.

Over the course of two decades, ICMP has responded to a wide variety of complex missing persons scenarios in more than 40 countries, including helping Bosnia and Herzegovina to identify almost 90 percent of the approximately 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica genocide. After the 2004 South East Asian Tsunami, in conjunction with INTERPOL, ICMP deployed its forensic expertise as part of a major international Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) program. The laboratory system is also a key component of ICMP’s Center of Excellence in Training and it supports ICMP’s programs in the Western Balkans, the MENA region and Latin America.