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IUPUI Researcher Gets $1.1M Award for Forensic DNA Phenotyping Tools

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The US Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice has awarded a forensic geneticist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis $1.1 million to develop forensic DNA phenotyping tools. 

Susan Walsh, an assistant professor of biology at IUPUI's School of Science, is developing the tools for predicting externally visible characteristics, such as eye, hair, or skin color, from genetic material. The tools will use biological samples, including blood, and could be especially useful in instances when conventional DNA profiling methods are ineffective, IUPUI said. 

DNA profiling compares DNA from a crime scene or archaeological find with DNA stored in a reference database. If no reference DNA exists, however, DNA profiling methods are unhelpful. 

"The tools we are developing will be especially useful in cases where conventional DNA profiling does not provide useful information and an investigation stalls because it's the individual's first crime or the first crime where DNA has been found, hence a profile is not in the DNA database," Walsh said in a statement. "These new tools will help investigators [who] lack genetic clues."

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