News 

Key Highlights at AAFS Conference

Forensic experts representing the research, engineering and law enforcement communities convened at the 69th Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans in February. Hosted by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), the conference showcased the latest technical and scientific advancements to elevate accuracy, precision and specificity in the forensic sciences. Key highlights included:

Why perform Y-screening?
AAFS Session on Body Fluid Identification and Non-Human Screening: Sexual Assault Processing. Presentation B104: Validation of a Novel Sperm Lysis Protocol to Improve Sexual Assault Triaging. 

Booth 915
MicroGEM staff and scientists were available to talk about rapid DNA extraction and sperm lysis for Y screening.

For information about our activities at AAFS,  contact Tamara Coffey at t.coffey@zygem.com.

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faSTR DNA Analysis Technology to be Presented at Leading Forensic DNA Conference

James Landers, PhD, Commonwealth Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia and Chief Scientific Officer at MicroLab Inc., will speak at the Bode Mid-Atlantic: DNA and Investigators Conference to be held in Philadelphia on November 7-10, 2016. This three-day conference brings together leaders in law enforcement and federal agencies to discuss the latest techniques and technologies in the field of forensic DNA analysis.

Landers will speak at a session entitled, Policy and Impact – Forensic DNA Use in Investigations. He will discuss faSTR DNA Analysis, an emerging technology for point-of-analysis in non-laboratory environments. Following on the developments of rapid DNA technology, faSTR DNA Analysis allows for the analysis of forensic DNA in a truly portable form-factor with ultra-rapid sample-to-answer times.

The session will kick off with a keynote presentation by Detective Timothy Relph of the Wichita Police Department. Detective Relph will discuss his involvement with the BTK Task Force that pursued and captured the BTK serial killer for a series of ten murders occurring between 1974 to 1991.

Other presenters in this session include:

  • Lisa Hurst, Law Firm of Gordon Thomas Honeywell: DNA Legislative Updates
  • Angela Williamson, PhD, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Assistance Sexual Assault Kit Initiative National Training and Technical Assistance
  • Vince Figarelli, Superintendent, Arizona DPS Crime Laboratory: Rapid DNA Initiative - Implementing Statewide for Law Enforcement
  • Megan Shaffer MacKenzie, PhD, DNA Identification Testing Division, Laboratory Corporation of America: Professional Ethics

Landers’ research at the University of Virginia focuses on rapid prototyping of microdevices for separations, DNA purification and DNA amplification.  His group was among the first to generate a fully integrated lab-on-a-chip (PNAS 103:19272, 2006), successfully applied to detecting infectious agents in biofluids and cancer diagnostics, and more recently defined new approaches to fluidic control on microchips (NATURE Physics 5:231, 2009). He has authored more than 180 papers and 25 book chapters on topics as diverse as receptor biochemistry, capillary electrophoretic method development, microchip fabrication, forensic DNA analysis and integrated microfluidic systems for application to both the clinical and forensic arenas.

Following phase 3 development of the faSTR DNA system, it is anticipated that MicroLab Inc. will commercialize the technology.

 For information about additional MicroLab technologies, including its flagship product, the PDQeX 2400 for rapid DNA extraction, visit http://microgemplc.com/about/technology.php or contact Tamara Coffey at t.coffey@zygem.com.

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MicroGEM Welcomes Tamara Coffey, Director of Business Development - North America

MicroLab Inc., a company that is revolutionizing DNA analysis with cutting edge microfluidic technologies, and its parent company, MicroGEM International PLC, are pleased to welcome Tamara Coffey as the Director of Business Development for North American markets. In this role, Coffey will work initially with the forensic community to accelerate adoption of technical solutions that improve the cost, integrity and efficiency of DNA analysis.

“Tamara brings a wealth of experiences in various DNA testing and collection markets,” explained Richard Healey, Chairman of MicroGEM International PLC. “As we continue to build strong partnerships with law enforcement communities and crime labs, we will leverage Tamara’s proven skills in creating lasting customer relationships that address urgent technical needs. Working primarily with our MicroLab team, Tamara will champion our flagship product, the ZyGEM PDQeX 2400, and its ability to reduce costs, human error and sample contamination, all while significantly improving processing times. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that our partners in the crime and forensics fields have the tools they need to process evidence samples quickly and accurately.”

Coffey has worked for over two decades in the law enforcement technology industry. Her career started in the Washington DC area where her business development efforts provided agencies with a number of technology solutions including LiveScan, AFIS, facial recognition as well as DNA products. She worked with numerous labs and law enforcement personnel across the United States, helping them understand federal legislation and grant funding opportunities while continuously building momentum across the country regarding DNA technology. Immediately prior to joining MicroLab, she helped bring a RapidDNA technology to the marketplace.

Coffey also owned and operated two DNA collection and testing businesses in Southern California. She has consulted for law enforcement technology companies, providing expertise on launching new products and penetrating new markets. She holds an M.B.A. from LaSalle University and will complete her Doctorate in Business Administration in 2017.

In 2011, she was nominated for the Los Angeles Business Journal’s “Women Making a Difference” award.

"My passion throughout my entire career has been to help identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent by finding the truth as established by DNA evidence,” said Coffey. “With the PDQeX technology, we are able to focus on the quality and quantity of extractions and help labs make a difference in processing sexual assault evidence kits. Our sperm lysis is the golden ticket - our chemistry with our product - for fast, effective, low-cost analysis and results."

Contact Tamara Coffey at t.coffey@zygem.com.

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ZyGEM (New Zealand) Introduces phytoGEM to International Arabidopsis Research Community

The ZyGEM NZ team attended the 27th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) to demonstrate the new phytoGEM nucleic acid extraction system. Held this year in Gyeongju, Korea from June 29 – July 3, ICAR is an annual scientific gathering around the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to better understand basic processes in plant genetics and biology.

 ZyGEM phytoGEM represents a simple technique for collecting cells from a leaf by combining sample collection, storage and nucleic acid extraction in a single low-cost system. Leaf disks are crushed directly onto storage cards in the field using the phytoGEM crusher tool. Leveraging ZyGEM’s fully-automated PDQeX 2400 technology, the system provides analysis-ready DNA in less than 15 minutes. Extracted nucleic acids are perfect for end-point and real-time PCR (qPCR), high throughput screening and pathogen detection. From leaf on a tree to PCR-ready DNA, this sophisticated yet simple technology uses thermally-modulated enzymatic reactions and thermo-responsive disposable extraction tubes.

 The company is in late stage development of RNA extraction and is working with leading laboratories to evaluate the system.

 For more information about PDQeX 2400 and phytoGEM, visit ICAR booth 6 or contact Rob Thompson at r.thompson@zygem.com.

Figure A: qPCR plot of PDQeX-extracted Arabidopsis thaliana DNA using the Adh gene. Figure B: End-point PCR amplification products from Arabidopsis thaliana.

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MicroGEM Announces Advances in Rapid Y Chromosome Screening

MicroGEM’s PDQeX 2400, a robust DNA extraction device that can achieve PCR-quality and human profile-ready DNA in less than 10 minutes, offers a rapid Y chromosome screening method for sexual assault samples. Enabled by forensicGEM, MicroGEM’s specially-formulated reagents for high-throughput DNA extraction from crime and CODIS samples, the device offers an automated procedure that releases DNA from sperm in minutes. DNA is then ready for qPCR detection to confirm the presence of male DNA.

The device and rapid Y chromosome screening were showcased at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) annual scientific conference on Feb. 22-25, 2016 in Las Vegas. For more information, contact Jeff Hickey, Director of Forensics, at j.hickey@zygem.com.

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ZyGEM (New Zealand) and Microlab Diagnostics (USA) Acquired by MicroGEM International PLC

The reagents of ZyGEM (Hamilton, NZ) and the microfluidics technology of MicroLab Diagnostics (Charlottesville, USA) have re-emerged under the umbrella of MicroGEM International PLC. At the helm of this new venture, Richard Healey and Jonathan Sims bring a wealth of corporate management and manufacturing expertise. MicroGEM is pleased to build upon the work of its subsidiaries by providing novel reagents and microfluidic instrumentation to the forensic and clinical sectors, while developing reagents and technologies for new markets, including the agricultural and veterinary industries.

MicroGEM continues to develop instruments and consumables to simplify nucleic acid analysis in the laboratory and beyond. Products in development will provide forensic laboratories with new tools to address backlog and incoming samples.

New products include the PDQeX, low cost device that produces PCR and HID-ready DNA in minutes. Together with a new formulation phytoGEM, it will also allow rapid extraction from plant leaves.

MicroGEM International PLC Board of Directors
Left to right: James Landers, Richard Healey, Jonathan Sims, Martin Goddard, David Saul (Absent: Garth Smith)

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Events 

69th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Association of Forensic Sciences

New Orleans, LA: February 13 - 18, 2017

Bode Mid-Atlantic DNA and Investigators Conference

faSTR DNA Systems: Emerging Technologies

Invited Talk  by James Landers, PhD, Tuesday, November 8 at 1:30 pm

Philadelphia, PA: November 7-10, 2016

Analytica China

Shanghai: October 10 - 12, 2016

Australasian Genomic Technologies Association Annual Conference

Auckland, New Zealand: October 9 - 12, 2016

ISHI 27: International Symposium on Human Identification

Minneapolis, MN: September 26 - 29, 2016

Exhibit Hall Booth 108

Green Mountain DNA Conference

Burlington, VT: August 1 - 3, 2016

27th International Arabidopsis Research Conference

Gyeongju, South Korea: June 29 - July 3, 2016

Exhibit Hall: Booth 6

Forensics Europe Expo

London, UK: April 19-20, 2016

Genetics in Forensics Congress

London, UK: March 14-15, 2016
Microfluidic technologies for rapid analysis of human DNA (Invited Talk: James Landers, Ph.D.)

National Institute of Justice Forensic Science R&D Symposium

Las Vegas, NV: February 23, 2016
Delivery of a microfluidic acoustic sperm cell trapping prototype for rapid processing of sexual assault evidence (Invited Talk: James Landers, Ph.D.)

68th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Las Vegas, NV: February 22-27, 2016
Exhibit Hall: Booth 112