Posts Tagged ‘Promega’


2015 International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI)

Mon, Oct 12th, 2015

In its 26th year, ISHI is the largest conference on forensic DNA analysis in the world and will take place from October 12 – October 15, in Grapevine, Texas (US).

Following her presentation at last year’s ISHI, Vanessa was invited to return this year and will be presenting a talk (Wednesday, October 14) entitled “Investigation of a Ruthless Rapist” – which will focus on the identification and conviction of Albert Morake, a ruthless South African serial rapist who committed 30 rapes between 2007 until his capture in 2012.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person to be exonerated from death row through post-conviction DNA testing, and will open the symposium by sharing his story. Bloodsworth spent nine years in prison and more than two years on death row before DNA evidence identified the true perpetrator of the 1984 rape and murder for which he was imprisioned. Today, Bloodsworth is an advocate for the wrongfully convicted and speaks publicly to highlight the risk of wrongful convictions and dangers of the death penalty.

ISHI 26 includes presentations from leading professionals in the fields of forensic DNA analysis, genomics, forensic anthropology, medical molecular diagnostics, law enforcement and more.

Filmmaker Alexa Barrett and Sara Huston Katsanis, a Science & Society Initiative Instructor at Duke University, will be presenting The Living Disappeared, an exploration of how DNA is being used to prevent child trafficking. Their presentation will include a brief preview of Barrett’s film by the same name.

Phenotyping, which utilizes DNA evidence to help predict what a suspect might look like, will be explored from multiple angles. Ellen Greytak, Director of Bioinformatics at Parabon NanoLabs, will present DNA Phenotyping: Predicting Ancestry and Physical Appearance from Forensic DNA, and David Ballard, a research associate in forensic genetics and senior scientist at King’s College London, will present DNA Phenotyping: What Can and Should We Predict?

Other presenters include: Marie Allen (Uppsala University, Sweden), Bruce Budowle (Institute of Applied Genetics), Thomas Callaghan (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Douglas Hares (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Rock Harmon (retired, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office), George Herrin (Georgia Bureau of Investigation), CeCe Moore (Institute for Genetic Genealogy), Fredy Peccerelli (Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala) and Jim Thomson (LGC).

This year’s event also includes more than 140 scientific posters including a submission by Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist, who will share her work exposing false Holocaust accounts. Fitzpatrick is also collaborating on the recently re-opened “Somerton Man” case, which involves the exhumation of a 45-year-old John Doe who died under mysterious circumstances and washed up on a beach fully clothed in Adelaide, Australia, in 1948.

In addition to the 3-day series of general session presentations, optional small group workshops are available, including:

  • Analyzing and Utilizing Data from Next-Generation Sequencers in the Forensic Genomics Era
  • Forensic Mixtures: Assessment, Analysis and Technology: Current Methods, New Approaches and Disruptive Technologies
  • Advanced Methods for DNA Based Identification of Skeletal Remains Countdown to 2017: Internal Validation of the New CODIS Loci
  • DNA Identification Strategies for Skeletal Remains and Other Challenging Samples

A complete list of workshops, speaker biographies, the ISHI blog and ongoing program updates are available at the symposium website:

This symposium for forensic experts and suppliers is offered through Promega Corporation, a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry. Founded in 1978, the company is headquartered in Madison, WI, USA, with branches in 16 countries and over 50 global distributors. For more information about Promega, visit

Highlights from ISHI25, Phoenix, Arizona and SFO, USA

Mon, Oct 20th, 2014

Vanessa Lynch outside the Californian Dept. of Justice Forensci DNA Lab, follwoing a tour of the facility and a presentation

Vanessa Lynch outside the Californian Dept. of Justice Forensic DNA Lab, following a tour of the facility and a presentation.

It is hard to believe that almost three weeks have passed since I set off for the USA where I was so unbelievably lucky to have attended and presented at the 25th International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI25) in Phoenix, Arizona as well as visit and present at two significant Forensic Science Labs in San Francisco, CA.

Thank you to both Promega and Thermo Fisher for providing me with this amazing opportunity.

At any given time, I honestly felt that I needed to pinch myself to assure myself that I was not dreaming! Not only did I meet renowned international leaders in the field of forensic DNA technology, but I learned so much about how and why different administrations treat the collection and retention of DNA profiles in the way that they do.

In so doing, I was able to gain greater perspective on what we are doing in South Africa, where we are in keeping with the advances in this technology and where sadly, we are still falling way, way behind. I say this because whilst we are still fighting for our DNA Act to become operational, and have just moved from sequencing 10 to 16 loci for our forensic DNA profiles, the rest of the world with developed DNA Databases, are using 24 loci and talking about implementing New Generation Sequencing – with this platform, and I quote (!), “there is increased interpretation of degraded DNA because SNPs can theoretically be amplified with as little as 50-70 nucleotide long amplicons instead of the longer amplicons needed for STRs.” Click here to read more if this excites you!

Vanessa Lynch with John Butler, author of Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Interpretation. His 1st edition of Forensic DNA Typing, published in 2001, quickly established itself as the gold-standard reference for the field. Over the next ten years, the vast amount of new information uncovered has resulted in this new volume.

Vanessa Lynch with John Butler, author of Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Interpretation. His 1st edition of Forensic DNA Typing, published in 2001, quickly established itself as the gold-standard reference for the field. Over the next ten years, the vast amount of new information uncovered has resulted in this new volume.

For an overview of the ISHI conference and what was presented, please read the below summary by Terri Sundquist, which also happens to briefly mention my presentation…

“I was one of almost 1,000 people who attended the 25th International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI25) in Phoenix, Arizona. This scientific meeting brings together DNA analysts from forensic and paternity labs, research scientists and others with an interest in DNA-based identification to learn about new technologies, policy and process changes, and current and future trends in DNA typing. There were so many great presentations and learning opportunities, how do I pick just a few of them to highlight?”

To read more, please click here

On a lighter note, two conversations which I found somewhat bemusing, were the ones I had with the Forensic Scientists from the Singapore and Chinese DNA Forensic Labs respectively.

The first conversation, with Singapore, revolved around the Oscar Pistoruis Trial: I was simply told that in Singapore, Mr Pistorius would now be dead – for the simple reason that it is illegal to own a firearm in Singapore, and if found to have one in your possession, it is life imprisonment. If anyone discharges a firearm, even accidentally, into the floor, it is the death sentence. It is no wonder that when I asked the scientist from Singapore how many criminal cases they deal with a year, the answer was : no more than 20 – per year!

New Generation Sequencing....

New Generation Sequencing....

The other conversation that left my jaw dropping, was with the Chinese scientist. This scientist correctly deduced that our number of arrestees and convicted offenders per annum is going to far outweigh our laboratory capacity, (especially at the start of the new DNA Act’s implementation) and accordingly suggested that we send samples to China to be processed because they can process as many as 800,000 samples per month — compare this to our anticipated capacity of approximately around 34,000 per month!

On that note, let’s not forget that our Minister of Police, Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko, has not yet declared our DNA Act to be operational nor has the appointment of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board been appointed — two critical factors which inhibit the implementation of the new DNA Act. If we are not taking samples from arrestees and convicted offenders, that means we are not loading profiles onto our DNA Database. It is no longer a question of whether a DNA Database is a valuable criminal intelligence tool — it is a given and the use and successes of Forensic DNA Databases are undisputed worldwide.

Unlike in Singapore, in South Africa, we probably have  20 criminal cases happening per minute, which is why the urgent operational date of this Act needs to be declared.

We have the tools, now let’s get on with the business of using those tools! Please Mr Minister – this ought to be a top priority on your agenda.

Vanessa Lynch