When ISHI began 30 years ago, RFLP was state of the art, DNA typing was in its infancy, and the world wide web was years in the future. DNA technology has seen many changes over three decades, and vendors at ISHI have been there to support every step in the DNA typing process.
As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’d like to take an opportunity to learn about the exhibitors who continue to advance the field. Today, we’re talking with Randy Nagy, Founder of Gentueri Inc.
Written by: Randy Nagy, Gentueri
I have been in the DNA Forensic market since 1989, when I helped Life Technologies launch their first genetic identity products called DNA Typing Grade RFLP Products. I moved to Promega in 1997, and helped launch the first STR Kits, including PowerPlex 8. In 2000, I joined Whatman and launched the FTA product line, and then joined Bode Technology in 2002, just after the World Trade Center disaster where we processed all the bones. I continued my focus on collection devices by launching the Bode Buccal Collector and SecurSwab.
I was invited by NIST and NIJ to join a group of experts to write the Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook. I got the idea for a product that I called the SwabSaver to be used to accept a swab at the point of collection, preserve it, and process the sample without the need to transfer the product. It is now patented, and I formed Fast Forward Forensics to commercialize the SwabSaver. We also sold other products like BSD Punchers, Fitzco Collection products, and Qualitype Software.
In 2018, we received funding and converted to Gentueri Inc., where we now manufacture the SwabSaver and collection kits. We have also expanded beyond the forensics market and sell kits into the personal genomics market. Our patented products offer many unique advantages over other collection products. They are designed to save time and money, and preserve samples for years at room temperature.
Gentueri is a start-up like Fast Forward Forensics was. Working with a small group of people in a situation where you need to produce or you are out of a job adds a little different flavor to daily activities. We are all motived, think of better ways to do things, and are focused on immediate goals. This was also true in a larger company, but there is a person for each task, or more, rather than each person taking on ten tasks. If you are motivated by what you have accomplished at the end of each day (or hour), and a bit of a risk taker, I would highly recommend a start-up company situation.
One if the first things I did when I entered this field in 1989 was to help convert laboratories from using cotton swatches to store blood samples to filter paper. We have come a long way. Rather than waiting a couple of weeks for a DNA identification result, we can have them in a couple of hours.
In the next 5 years, I see that the most important parts of DNA identification will be the sample collection and data interpretation. Once a sample is collected, the process to extract the DNA will become automated. The results of that data will determine the direction the sample will go from there for downstream processing. The processing will be automated, and the data will be initially interpreted by expert systems but have a human review.
In ten years, I see many samples being totally automated and only exceptions being reviewed by experts. Twenty years out is a long time, but I think we will have many additional technologies that can answer simple questions for us a lot faster. At the scene we can quickly tell if evidence is from the same person as another sample, or determine how long the sample had been here. Processing in the lab will be quicker with automated steps with flagged exceptions to the process for human intervention.
I have been to every ISHI meeting except the first one in Madison from 1990 onwards. This year marks my 29th ISHI meeting.
In 1990, in Scottsdale, we had less than 100 people and now there are almost 1,000 people attending. With more people to talk to, there are a lot more conversations on different aspects of what we do. In the past, we advanced a few things a long way and now we advance more things with smaller steps. Experts used to know all aspects of DNA forensic science, but now we have become more segmented as more aspects of science come to into play.
I have many favorite memories from the 28 meetings I have attended. Hot tub conversations at three in the morning or climbing Camelback mountain at five am were all part of an exciting week. I particularly liked the three meetings where I was the MC for the meeting in 1997 through 1999. 1997 was our last year in Scottsdale, since the hotel could only hold 240 people and we had 220 attendees. We moved to Disney World for 1998 and the meeting seemed to explode.
I look forward to the meeting every year to see people I have known for decades and to meet new faces that have come to the meeting for the first time. This year I am looking to forward to talking with many potential partners to help develop innovative products that will be launched next year.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS? SUBSCRIBE TO THE ISHI BLOG BELOW!