Legal View

Bytes tackles DNA processing challenges

The portable RapidHIT 200 System can reduce DNA processing times from weeks to hours, says Bytes Systems Integration.

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Bytes Systems Integration has introduced a solution that it believes will meet the challenges presented by the imminent DNA Bill.

The solution - the RapidHIT 200 System, designed by IntegenX - is suited to analysing DNA samples in cases in which a multi-week turnaround time for the analysis would be too long, says Bytes.

The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, generally referred to as the DNA Bill, is one step closer to being signed into law after it was passed by the National Assembly.

This means the need for an effective DNA profiling solution is becoming more urgent, according to Nick Perkins, divisional director for identity management at Bytes Systems Integration.

Perkins points out that, once the Bill becomes an Act, DNA evidence collected by police investigating a crime scene will be required to be loaded onto a database under the crime scene index. The theory is that detectives will then be able to link criminals to crime scenes by taking DNA samples and checking them against the index. The DNA database will also be able to exonerate convicted offenders, he explains.

"However, there is a logical concern that a lack of resources, which has already led to serious backlogs at the country's forensic science laboratories, will become more pronounced once this Bill is signed into law," says Perkins. This, he suggests, is because typical forensic DNA sample processing - from DNA swab submission to Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)-format profile - can take weeks or even months to process.

"Turnaround times for sample processing are determined by both the complexity of instruments required to analyse DNA and the relative scarcity of scientists qualified to operate them. Clearly, once this Bill comes to pass, the police force would ideally want a more efficient and productive system that could conduct such DNA analysis far more quickly."

He says Bytes is in a position to assist, as the RapidHIT 200 System can overcome these challenges. Examples of use cases, states Perkins, include those relating to missing persons identification, disaster recovery, and immigration and border control.

"With the RapidHIT 200 System, sample processing can be performed in fewer than 90 minutes and does not require a standard laboratory environment. In fact, the system is entirely portable and is designed to withstand travel by airplane, truck and helicopter. This means it can be set up within 30 minutes of placement at a site, and no special conditions are necessary beyond a stable table or bench top," he says.

Perkins adds that the RapidHIT 200 System has been used in offsite locations as diverse as hotel rooms, beaches, bunkers, vans and tents. Moreover, the system has successfully produced full profiles from diverse samples - including teeth, bottle necks, hat sweatbands, cigarette butts, clothing and several touch swabs - at these locations.

"The solution has, during testing both by IntegenX and three other external organisations, been found to deliver 100% concordance with 'regular' DNA analysis performed in a lab. What really sets this solution apart, however, is that a user can be trained to operate the RapidHIT 200 System in as little as 30 minutes. In effect, IntegenX has developed a system that can enable police to run a DNA analysis, at the scene of the crime, without the need for a forensic specialist to be present.

"The aim of the DNA Bill is to improve conviction rates in SA, by revolutionising crime investigation in the country. By providing a completely portable, easy-to-use solution that reduces the process of DNA analysis from weeks to hours, Bytes can assist the SAPS in driving forward this revolution," concludes Perkins.

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