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Experts to Discuss Controversial DNA Technologies at 22nd International Symposium on Human Identification

MADISON, WISCONSIN (July 27, 2011) Phenotyping. Rapid DNA testing. Familial searching. The intricacies and controversies surrounding breakthrough DNA technologies are among the timely issues in DNA analysis that will be explored, debated and illuminated at this year's International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI), October 3-6 in Washington D.C. (www.ishi22.com). As the largest conference to focus on DNA analysis for human identification, the symposium attracts forensic scientists from around the world.
Forensic DNA Phenotyping: Usage, Controversies
This year, the use of phenotyping for forensic purposes is one of the hot topics that will be debated by an international panel of academic, legal and forensic experts. Forensic DNA phenotyping is a type of DNA analysis that allows select physical characteristics—such as skin, eye and hair color—to be inferred from a sample, essentially acting as an eyewitness. It is only in the last several years that phenotyping has been made available to law enforcement personnel in special circumstances where leads are slim. Not yet in common use in the United States, only a few countries—like the Netherlands—are using the technology to support law enforcement and forensic investigations. But phenotyping also raises ethical questions. Is it a form of racial profiling? Should ancestry and other characteristics open a person up to investigation? Amid concerns of misuse, in 2003, the Dutch parliament adopted laws regulating and standardizing the use of forensic DNA phenotyping. To date, the Netherlands is the only country to codify the practice. The ISHI panel of experts will debate the arguments for and against the use of this powerful technology.
DNA Breakthroughs and Cultural Shifts
Today's DNA technologies are the stuff of yesterday's science fiction. Reflecting on how far the science has advanced, one can't help but wonder what the future holds. ISHI keynote speaker Juan Enriquez, the renowned futurist, will provide his unique insights. Author of As the Future Catches You, this Harvard academic, founding director of Harvard's Life Sciences Project, and CEO of Biotechonomy, LLC, analyzes the impact of genomics on business and economics, exploring how technology impacts various cultures in significantly different ways. Enriquez equates the decoding of the human genome with the discovery of America—a milestone that will forever alter the future in ways that most cannot yet imagine. Affectionately profiled as "Mr. Gene" in Fortune magazine, his talk, complemented by his signature energy, is sure to engage.
Genomics and DNA Technology in the News DNA technology has the potential to impact just about everyone on some level. Recent implementations and their results—or impending results—will be the focus of a variety of other ISHI speakers, panelists and workshop leaders, including:
  • Professor Mark Jobling of the University of Leicester will speak about "Fishing for Vikings in the Gene Pool of Britain." Jobling's work on the Wirral and West Lancashire Project confirmed that the region around Liverpool was indeed settled by Vikings, vindicating many who have long prided themselves on their tough, Norse heritage.
  • Dr. Gillian Tully is the head of research and development at the Forensic Science Service (FSS), the United Kingdom's version of the U.S. FBI. With the 2012 FSS closure looming, Dr. Tully will discuss the potential impact of this large-scale, never-before-attempted privatization.
  • A workshop featuring speakers from government agencies, academic institutions and industry will convene to discuss advances in microfluidic technologies, which enable "rapid DNA" identification, Miniaturized microfluidic devices will soon enable forensic professionals to do never-before-possible DNA work in the field. Workshop presenters will discuss what the "incredible shrinking DNA lab" could mean for forensic professionals—and people—the world over.
Additional hot topics that ISHI will cover include the current state of DNA legislation, use of familial searches, new DNA technologies, the use of animal DNA in forensics, and more. Please check the symposium website at www.ishinews.com for continuing program and speaker updates.
October 3 – 6, 2011
Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center on the Potomac
201 Waterfront Street
National Harbor, MD 20745, USA
For a full conference agenda, visit: www.ishi22.com
For late-breaking news, visit: www.ishinews.com
This symposium for forensic experts and suppliers is offered through Promega Corporation.

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