October 1, 2009 By Corey McKenna
The Department of Homeland Security has awarded Parabon NanoLabs a grant to design a portable, low-cost kit the company says will be able to quickly verify a person's identity and kinship using DNA.
Rapid and reliable verification of identity is one of the biggest challenges immigration officials face, as people intent on doing harm to the United States take advantage of refugee programs to enter the country.
Current methods of analyzing DNA for identity and kinship verification can take days and cost hundreds of dollars per test, thus being too slow for high-throughput checkpoints and too costly to be paid for by refugees or their relatives already settled in the United States. The department's goal is to identify a solution that can verify an applicant's identity within 45 minutes and cost less than $100.
The company's goal is to develop a kit the size of a briefcase that can process a DNA sample and establish identity or kinship with 99.99 percent accuracy within 45 minutes for less than $50 per test with the capability to conduct multiple tests at the same time.
"Beyond DHS' needs for kinship analysis, a rapid, low-cost DNA-based biometric will have broad applications in mass-casualty situations, reunification of family members following mass evacuations, identification of missing persons, rapid processing of crime-scene and suspect DNA and various scientific and educational uses." Christopher A. Miles, biometrics program manager at DHS said in a press release.