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World first for Queensland forensic lab

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In a world first, Gribbles Molecular Science (GMS) in Queensland is the first forensic laboratory to install the Id-DNA RFID electronic tracking and data management system. This allows real-time tracking of forensic DNA samples all the way through lab processing to completed result as well as providing ultimate chain-of-custody and sample security.

RFID (radio frequency identification) devices are considered as the next generation of barcoding and are very rapidly becoming the method of choice for item identification tracking in industry. Where barcodes need to be processed one at a time, hundreds of RFID labels can be tracked simultaneously. One well known basic example is RFID tags on clothing/videos etc used to prevent theft from stores.

However the system created by id-DNA, a partnership between GMS and leading RFID supplier Sunshine Technologies , is much more advanced. The electronic tags can contain unique identification, a record of sample processing, as well as the DNA fingerprint itself - all within the RFID tag. The electronic tags are automatically scanned by a computer data management system which collects and links all stages of the laboratory process.

"This is a major step forward and a very exciting opportunity for Queensland to lead the world in forensic DNA innovations. Chain-of-custody and sample security are absolutely critical for forensics and until now have been labour intensive and error-prone. This system can do it automatically," said Professor Ian Findlay, director of forensics at GMS and director of Id-DNA. "We estimate that the paperwork involved in forensics can be cut by 70%".

According to Professor Findlay automated tracking leads to much higher throughput as well as significant cost efficiencies.

“Our labs can now process up to 1000 forensic samples per week and are extremely cost effective,” he said.

Scott Austin, managing director of id-DNA, said: “In addition to forensics, we see many applications for these exciting technologies in the Homeland Security sector, Health, "paddock to plate" verification in food and livestock area as well as a multitude of applications such as sample tracking."

GMS labs is no stranger to forensic innovation. It is one of the first independent accredited forensic labs in Australia and the SE Asia region as well as being one of the very few labs worldwide specialising in analysis of single cell and very difficult forensic samples. Professor Findlay, also Professor of Molecular Diagnostics in the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Sciences at Griffith University, published the first DNA fingerprint of single cells in 1994.

Background to RFID

This system provides three main major advantages:

1. Much higher efficiency due to automated processing. GMS estimates that the paperwork involved in forensics can be cut by 70% - leading to much higher throughput and cost efficiencies.

2. Automated sample tracking and chain-of-custody. System provides real-time sample security so that location and stage of processing of every sample is available immediately.

3. Real-time asset and reagent tracking ensures that samples are not processed using out of date or incorrect reagents as well as reducing reagent wastage.

RFID tracking offers multiple advantages such as:

* Much higher throughput than barcodes or hand records

* Capacity to track hundreds of samples simultaneously (barcoding can track only single objects)

* Writable formats allowing sample tags to contain their own chain-of-custody information

* Elimination of line-of-sight (barcodes need direct viewing whereas RFID can work through walls, different angles etc)

* Integrating sample processing parameters with staff ID, ensuring efficient automated audit and chain of custody

* Sample storage and tracking. RFID technology allows samples to automatically "find" and track themselves ensuring sample integrity

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