In January, Ubiquitome announced the finalists of the Freedom For You grants program. The grants program was designed to provide support for remote qPCR projects, with each winner receiving a Freedom4 device. The ten selected finalists are receiving support from Ubiquitome in the form of Freedom4 qPCR reagents and consumables, project design consultation, and technical support, including wet lab processing. Three grant winners will receive a Freedom4 gold standard qPCR mobile device worth USD$25,000.
One of the selected finalists is Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) senior scientist Rachel Fleming for her work in crime scene forensic science.
Rachel is passionate about identifying body fluids and tissues for forensic purposes. Working alongside ESR practicing forensic scientists, her research has been implemented into casework to help identify body fluids and tissue samples from crimes in New Zealand to determine who the sample has come from and the actual nature of the sample. She has been working with ESR since 2007 in this field and now along with scientist Meng-Han Lin, they actively pursue new technology to help identify body fluids. Body fluids and tissue are evidence in police investigations that can help identify the victim or offender, or determine what has happened. ESR scientists examine crime scenes, a process that can take days if it is a large and complicated area, collecting samples that are sent back to the lab for analysis. This can take some time as retesting may needed or a large volume of samples requiring processing. Results have to be accurate as they impact heavily on current or further investigations.
Globally, the forensic community is slow to adopt new technology. The process to get a new method implemented is rigorous with agreement required by scientists, police, attorneys and judges prior to it being accepted by the courts. ESR is held in high regard for their opinion and expertise in the forensic science field with scientists influencing trends globally.
With a number of published papers under her belt and New Zealand’s strong reputation in the forensic sciences, Rachel is leading the way in crime scene investigation analysis. She has many published papers in forensic science including her most recent:
Fleming, R. I., Harbison, S. (2010) The Development of a mRNA multiplex RT-PCR Assay for the Definitive Identification of Body Fluids. Forensic Science International. Genetics. 4 (4): 244:56
The issue with current crime scene testing of body fluids is the time taken to get results back to the police. Rachel is looking at the use of mobile molecular testing to counteract this issue. This method of diagnostics would allow scientists to test the samples as they collect them, being able to deliver results directly to the police once they have tested the crime scene. This eliminates the need to send all samples back to the lab to be tested.
qPCR testing is already used for the quantification of human DNA and has been accepted by the forensic community so the incorporation of a mobile device to take to crime scenes would be possible. If this is something that is picked up here in New Zealand, the rest of the world will not be far behind in adopting the technology, potentially changing the face of crime scene investigation globally.
For more information on Rachel’s research click here or to view a full list of the finalists visit our website www.ubiquitomebio.com.