Saturday, August 15, 2020

Othram helps identify murder victim from ~20 cells equivalent DNA sample

Othram, a DNA forensics company I co-founded, continues to solve cold cases around the world. 

Murder victim Rodney Peter Johnson was identified from a sample of only 0.2 nanograms of DNA (equivalent of 20 cells). Mr. Johnson had last been seen in 1987, when he was 25 years old. His body was discovered in 1994 by a fisherman in Lake Stickney, near Everett WA. It was badly decomposed and could not be identified.

The Johnson family has waited decades for closure. Press conference video.

See Othram: the future of DNA forensics

The existing FBI standard (CODIS) for DNA identification uses only 20 markers (STRs -- previously only 13 loci were used!). By contrast, genome wide sequencing can reliably call millions of genetic variants. 

For the first time, the cost curves for these two methods have crossed: modern sequencing costs no more than extracting CODIS markers using the now ~30 year old technology. 

What can you do with millions of genetic markers? 

1. Determine relatedness of two individuals with high precision. This allows detectives to immediately identify a relative (ranging from distant cousin to sibling or parent) of the source of the DNA sample, simply by scanning through large DNA databases. ...

If you have contacts in law enforcement, please alert them to the potential of this new technology.

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