Forensic Genomics and New Directions in DNA Identification of Missing Persons

Wednesday September 16th, 2020 // 10:40 am - 11:10 am

The use of DNA to identify missing persons has matured greatly in the last few decades, with applications spanning disaster victim identification, deaths from historical and recent human rights violation and armed conflict, deaths due to migration, and “routine” missing persons cases.  Most often, missing persons identification involves testing skeletal remains, and this forensic application is closely allied with the field of ancient DNA investigation.  The field has progressed from an mtDNA emphasis, to one where STRs are now used in some contexts to result in identifications on a large scale.  However, the global need for increased capabilities is vast, with major limitations on current practice imposed by the need for multiple close family reference samples for kinship matching, and DNA degradation incompatible with recovery of STR data.  This presentation will cover ICMP’s work on the development of a large MPS-based SNP panel that greatly improves missing persons identification capability, allowing for identification based on comparison to single, distant relatives.  This work will be discussed also in the context of other promising developments in forensic genomics, ancient DNA, and genetic genealogy.


Michelle Peck

DNA Research and Validation Manager, International Commission on Missing Persons

Michelle is the DNA Research and Validation Manager at the International Commission on Missing Persons. Her focus is on implementing massively parallel sequencing methods for missing persons applications. Previously she worked at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in the Emerging Technologies Section, with an emphasis on mitochondrial DNA methods.

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