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Akonni Receives $500K for Forensics Platform Development

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Molecular diagnostics firm Akonni Biosystems today said it has received a Phase III grant from the National Institutes of Justice for about $500,000 to accelerate the development of a system for a new forensics application.

Akonni is developing a microarray-based transportable, sample-to-answer system for identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms linked to a person's physical appearance.

In a statement, the Frederick, Md., company said that a new application leverages the vast amounts of human genetic data being generated. Called human characteristic identification, it links a person's physical appearance to genetic data, and is capable of deducing a person's appearance from trace or degraded DNA samples.

Though still in early development stage, HCID may offer a new strategy in solving crimes and identifying threats more rapidly and accurately, Akonni said.

"The physical traits revealed by SNPs can be as simple as eye, hair, and skin color, but can become more complex and include height, hair type … and facial features," Akonni said.

Its system in development will combine multiplex SNP discrimination with analytical accuracy, operational simplicity, affordable price points, and quick turnaround time, said Phil Belgrader, vice president of R&D at Akonni and principal investigator on the grant.

"The implications of our system in the field of forensics [are] far reaching," he added "It has the potential to provide law enforcement, crime scene investigators and homeland security officers with a new tool to more accurately and rapidly apprehend perpetrators, identify victims and reduce the backlog of cold cases."

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