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To Peek at the Code

An algorithm that gauges the likelihood that someone's DNA is within a complex mix of DNA is to undergo scrutiny by criminal defense experts, the Washington Post reports.

According to the Post, the tool, Cybergenetics' TrueAllele, was first used in a criminal trial in 2009, but as the company has argued that its algorithm is a trade secret, prosecutors, defendants, and others have been unable to delve into how it works. The reliability of a similar tool, STRmix, came under scrutiny in New York in 2016.

In this case, Bryan Kennedy, a Fairfax County, Virginia, public defender, argues that without seeing the TrueAllele source code, it would be difficult to assess whether his client, Clark Watson, was accurately identified in a 2014 armed robbery case, the Post says. It adds that in response to a subpoena from Kennedy, Cybergenetics said experts could review the code for a fee and if they signed a non-disclosure agreement, among other restrictions, conditions Kennedy said were out of reach for his client and could preclude experts from testifying at trial.

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Dontae Bugg has ordered Cybergenetics to comply with the subpoena without the conditions, but said the code could not be publicly released, the Post reports, adding that the code's review by an expert has been delayed by the pandemic. It notes that a judge in Pennsylvania has similarly ruled the source code had to be released to a defense team there for examination.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.