October 04, 2012, 7:27 AM — What would happen if everyone could do DNA analysis within minutes using a simple computerized box that accepted a person's cell samples on a swab and spit out the answer about a person's genetic identity automatically?
Though it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, that possibility is now within reach. And as the new capability of what's being called 'Rapid DNA' analysis takes off, law enforcement in police stations and the FBI could be using it to catch criminals without having to send DNA off to official DNA-testing labs as is done now. But it doesn't stop there. U.S. agencies could not only use this instant "DNA analysis in a box" to check the identity of someone wanting to come into the country, but easily check to see if two people who say they're related really are since DNA genetic information can provide that. And that's just what governments might do with it -- there's no reason that businesses and individuals couldn't easily be doing DNA analysis, too, in the years to come.
"What science has given us is some very miraculous work in the DNA world," said Peter Verga, chief of staff for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, during his keynote at the Biometric Consortium Conference in Tampa recently.
After years of research encouraged by the FBI and DoD, 'Rapid DNA' analysis-in-a-box is here, proving a DNA profile can be produced automatically, with no need for professional lab training, in 90 minutes or less. Two companies, integenX and NetBio, are the manufacturers whose 'Rapid DNA' equipment is now under government evaluation at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Laboratory. More companies, including Lockheed Martin, are expected to soon follow.
Verga noted it would theoretically be possible in the future to do a DNA profile on travelers coming into Dulles Airport, for example, for security purposes. But whatever ends up happening with the new power for instant DNA analysis, it must "adhere to the rule of law" and conform to the idea that one must "do good with biometrics and avoid evil," he added.
The 'Rapid DNA' analysis is only going to get more powerful in what it can do.