The Baltimore Police Department is taking part in a program to develop and test new technology that could significantly cut DNA analysis time, reports the Baltimore Sun. The National Institute of Justice is putting $1 million toward the project. Police will partner with researchers from Yale University and a North Carolina-based company to develop technology that would enable crime lab workers to identify and test smaller samples in a much shorter time.
The technology is at least a year away from being usable and won’t be implemented for cases during the pilot phase, but officials hope it will be cleared for use if successful. “The problem being solved here is that DNA sequencing, which is the gold standard for crime forensics, is expensive and takes a long time,” said Richard West, CEO of Advanced Liquid Logic, which developed the technology. “This device will  indicate to the crime lab technicians which samples are worthy and which are not worthy of further analysis.” The technology uses “microfluidics,” which one expert said is an emerging area of research. Mitchell Holland, director of the forensic science program at Pennsylvania State University, said such devices have been produced in the past year in academia and the private sector, as well as in Britain. “I don’t know of any [police] lab in the USA that is using microfluidics,” Holland said. “It could be that the Baltimore crime lab is one of the first in the country to implement this.”