As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, we will open the conference with a presentation by Mark Desire, Assistant Director of Forensic Biology at the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner and Mary Fetchet, Executive Director for the Voices Center for Resilience. Their presentation will walk along the hardship and perseverance through the eyes of the team and families of the victims. This commitment to identify all of those who lost their lives has not wavered.
The work of the New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) over the last two decades to return loved ones has pushed the limits of forensic science. These efforts have both transformed and humbled the agency. The audience will be taken through the graphic events from the initial response that morning to how it shaped the work worldwide today, a true demonstration on how challenge and failure lead to growth.
From the very beginning, families of the 9/11 victims came together to console one another, and organizations formed to provide the support that was needed to help them heal. One such organization, Voices Center for Resilience, (VOICES) provides long-term support and resources that promote mental health care and wellness for victims’ families, responders, and survivors, while extending their efforts to assist communities in recovering from other tragedies. Like the OCME, they remain committed to use their expertise to help beyond the work of 9/11. Supporting each other, both dedicated organizations continue the mission while remembering the past, a special relationship between government and the people they serve.
Later on Tuesday, September 14th, a panel discussion led by W. Mark Dale will discuss how various agencies worked to identify both victims and perpetrators of the 9/11 attack. Panelists will reflect on the advances in forensic science that have come about in the aftermath of the event. Those presenting during the panel include: Mark Desire (NYC OCME), Alan Giusti (FBI Lab), and Tim McMahon (AFDIL). Mark has worked on identifying remains of 9/11 victims from the beginning. He is the manager of the World Trade Center DNA Identification Team, and his team has helped develop advanced DNA typing protocols to get results from severely compromised samples, sharing their techniques with a number of agencies, including labs overseas. Alan had been working at the FBI at the time of the terrorist attacks, and was involved with the team that helped identify 911 terrorists. Tim will be discussing AFDILs identification of remains from the 9/11 attacks.
Additional presentations rounding out Tuesday’s talks include:
Improving the Recovery of Degraded DNA from Historical Skeletal Remains: The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System’s Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFMES-AFDIL) routinely works to identify individuals from highly degraded skeletal remains. In order to increase success rates for these cases, next generation sequencing methods were validated and integrated into their casework pipeline.
CODIS and NDIS Update: An update will be provided on the status of the National DNA Index System and future updates and capabilities to the CODIS software.
For those interested in learning more about investigative genetic genealogy/forensic genetic genealogy, Wednesday’s talks should not be missed. Thomas Callaghan leads with an update on the SWGDAM Investigative Genetic Genealogy Working Group, which was formed in 2020. His presentation will discuss the working group’s current activities and interaction with the CODIS community.
Other IGG/FGG presentations that day include:
Practical Strategies for Selecting and Working IGG Cases
What FGG is Revealing about CODIS and the Criminal Justice System: In this talk, we explore what FGG has revealed to us about CODIS and the criminal justice system, through a discussion of FGG casework that has provided insight into deficits in the system and what is being done to remedy them. We discuss the challenges faced by SAKI programs in various states to collect lawfully owed DNA samples, along with debate over the expansion of DNA collection laws. We conclude with a discussion of public opinion as a major influence on the continued use of crowd-sourced FGG databases as an integral part of this game-changing investigative tool.
Analysis of the Genealogy Process in Investigative Genetic Genealogy: The genealogy process is typically the most time-consuming part of – and a limiting factor in the success of – investigative genetic genealogy. Our objective is to develop a systematic approach to efficiently perform the genealogy portion of investigative genetic genealogy.
Additional talks on Wednesday and Thursday address new technologies, MPS/NGS, mixture interpretation, sexual assault cases and more:
Evaluation of Nuclear DNA from Rootless Hair for Forensic Purposes: We will present a description of the characteristics of DNA found in rootless hair shafts. We will also present a computational pipeline that converts this direct DNA sequence data into high-quality genotype files of the type available from direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies. These genotype files are suitable, then, for forensic genetic genealogy. This approach has helped solve some of the oldest and most difficult high-profile violent crime cases.
Interpretation of Y Chromosome STRs for Missing Persons Cases: The Missing Persons Unit under the Center of Human Identification at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTCHI) specializes in the DNA analysis and identification of missing persons cases and processes >50% unidentified human remains of the missing persons cases in the US. It is common within UNTCHI to encounter complex cases that would be better served with enhanced Y-STR interpretation procedures
Bayes’ Rule: Then and Now: This talk will follow highlights of a tumultuous history, including two celebrated trials — one where Bayes rule helped free an innocent prisoner charged with treason and another where bad statistics led to disaster. I will conclude with the dramatic turn of events that turned Bayes’ rule into a method that was adopted almost overnight because, suddenly, it worked.
NIST Scientific Foundation Review on DNA Mixture Interpretation: After several years of study, a 250-page draft report, DNA Mixture Interpretation: A NIST Scientific Foundation Review, was released for public comment in early June 2021. This presentation will discuss the process used to conduct this study, review findings reported, and describe feedback received during a 60-day public comment period.
A Proteos Program Retrospective: Establishing Protein Sequencing for Forensic Analysis: For the past three years, Signature Science has been working on the IARPA PROTEOS program to demonstrate that protein sequencing can successfully be used for human forensic identification for samples where DNA was either absent or degraded, specifically touch samples. Together with the University of North Texas Health Science Center and The Ohio State University, we have established novel sample preparation methods, analytical pipelines, and statistical frameworks to support future implementation in forensic labs.
Cross-Platform Workflow for the Promega PowerSeq 46GY System: The commercial availability of MPS kits targeting forensic loci, developmental validation studies, and NDIS acceptance across multiple MPS kits and platforms illustrate the progress in reliability and adoption of MPS technologies in forensic laboratories. However, due to the financial investment necessary for acquiring a MPS instrument, forensic laboratories are likely to have only one MPS platform available in their laboratory once the decision to implement this technology is made. Since there are multiple platforms and chemistries, cross-platform workflows are needed to enable sharing of MPS data generated across the forensic genomics community.
Ancestry Informativeness of Autosomal STRs using Massively Parallel Sequencing: This presentation addresses the discovery and characterisation of novel sequence variants, and the opportunity to utilize this diversity in unique ways. In particular, the presence of population-specific sequence variation raises the prospect of using STR profiles for population identification, both on their own and in combination with ancestry-informative SNPs.
All of the talks listed above will be available for viewing on-demand and can be added to an existing in-person registration. Reduced registration costs are available for those who would prefer to attend virtually. Learn more and register on our website: www.ishinews.com.
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