Recapping 2019s top HID stories
March 01, 2020 | Human ID and Forensics

Recapping 2019s top HID stories

At QIAGEN, we are always fine-tuning our strategies and improving solutions, scaling our applications to keep pace with emerging technologies, and partnering with you to advance forensic science and expand our service to the community.

Balance your quarantine reading time with some useful content from the field of human ID and forensics. Between child care and mobile working, we want you to take a moment to grab a cup of tea and catch up on what you may have missed in 2019. 

Your partner from crime scene to courtroom

In September, QIAGEN acquired the FTA sample collection business from GE healthcare. The new portfolio includes the EasiCollect system for uniform and reliable sample collection, transport and storage, and enables QIAGEN to offer comprehensive workflows, right from crime scene to courtroom.

2019 Young Investigator Award

The winner of the 2019 Young Investigator award was Margreet van den Berge from the Netherlands Forensic Institute, The Hague. Runners-up were Zachary Goecker from Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis and Sofia Antão Sousa from the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto, Porto.

The winner and two runners-up were recognized during the 2019 ISFG Congress in Prague at a special award ceremony.

Young Investigator Award
Margreet van den Berge, Zachary Goecker, Sofia Antao Sousa (from left to right)
Dr. van den Berge’s ongoing postdoctoral research at the NFI applied mRNA profiling for forensic identification of body fluids and organ types and demonstrated the value of mRNA profiling with aged and degraded specimens.

Mr. Goecker’s Ph.D. project involved the role of genetic variation in human hair shaft protein as a forensic tool and optimizing the chemical processing of hair for proteomic analysis.

Ms. Antão Sousa’s Ph.D. project was in forensic genetics, working on estimating Y-chromosome short tandem repeat (Y-STR) mutation rates and elucidating mutational mechanisms.

2019 New Investigator blog

Forensic science has attracted a lot of attention. From episodes of CSI on the entertainment screen to real world investigations by the FBI, forensic science touches our lives in many ways.

QIAGEN is dedicated to advancing the science of human identification and forensics and is uniquely positioned to celebrate new investigators with a passion for forensic science.

In QIAGEN’s New Investigator blog, we amplify the impact of contributions from talented scientists and graduate students and recognize their achievements.

In 2019, we interviewed Felix Bittner, DNA Analyst at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), The Hague, Netherlands. His work focuses on developing a large massively parallel sequencing SNP panel (MPSplex assay) for missing persons identification.

Felix Bittner Image
New Investigator Felix Bittner
We want you to inspire others and to feature your own accomplishments! Find out more about the New Investigator blog series and fill out an application form to get started.

Contributions are invited from anyone who’s been working in the field of human identification for less than 10 years, and is currently affiliated with an institution or university, but most importantly, shares the goal of making a positive impact on our community.
Globally, hundreds of thousands of unidentified victims are missing due to conflicts and natural disasters. Their relatives, friends and colleagues live in uncertainty without knowing what happened to their loved ones.

Finding answers and bringing closure to families is the task of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Supported by QIAGEN with expertise and equipment since 2001, the ICMP has built a state-of-the-art DNA laboratory system for the sole purpose of identifying missing persons. Dr. Thomas Parsons leads the technical processes as the ICMP’s Director of Science and Technology. Dr. Parsons recognizes the value of his work to families. “Doing our job correctly and getting our work done changes the experience for these traumatized people,” he says. “You can’t cure anything, but it can help alleviate some of the fundamental causes of ongoing trauma.”

While previous technologies required a reference sample from a parent, a child or a sibling to verify DNA identities, now a 1st or potentially even a 2nd degree cousin relationship may be sufficient. Dr. Parsons calls this a “paradigm shift.” The smallest DNA fragments can be analyzed with the new test method, opening the way to unveiling the identities behind historic samples from World War II or the armed conflict in Bosnia in the 1990s.

The work of the ICMP in collaboration with QIAGEN can give certainty and help to hold to account those who are responsible for political crimes. But most of all, it gives all the relatives of missing people the chance to leave the past behind and carry on with their lives.

Explosive discoveries from trace DNA

Getting enough information from touch DNA on samples such as explosives, weapons and degraded remains is challenging. Forensic scientists like Dr. Sheree Hughes are improving ways to get more genetic information from less sample.

Hughes’s research is guided by one overarching goal: to obtain as much genetic information as possible from small, degraded samples. She is trying to improve retrieval of trace DNA from bomb fragments and firearms, as we as obtain information from minuscule amounts of tissue from decomposing and skeletal human remains.

Sheree Hughes credits QIAGEN with helping her team develop new and improved workflows. “QIAGEN pretty much has a solution for everything,” she says, as one of her students loads the QIAcube with samples from the past two days’ events to prep them for further analysis.

QIAGEN’s short tandem repeat (STR) kits, DNA quantification kits and massively parallel sequencing (MPS) panels for missing persons are tools that support her team in their research. “QIAGEN products are unique to the field,” Hughes says. “They give us what we need to collect more DNA information from less and less of a sample and that gives us even more opportunity to identify persons of interest in crimes, as well as missing persons or casualties.”

Sheree Hughes
Sheree Hughes, the head of the Forensic Biology Human Identification (HID) Laboratory at Australia’s University of Queensland.

QIAGEN raised awareness and committed to continue empowering forensic scientists to tackle specialized, challenging sexual assault investigations with the aim of bringing closure to the survivors.

Sexual assault victims often do not get the necessary closure due to the lack of informative and conclusive results from challenging DNA evidence. Issues related to DNA mixtures, degraded and low levels of DNA, PCR inhibitors, and even available laboratory resources to process samples in a timely manner, can all impede successful completion of necessary casework.

QIAGEN is partnering with forensic scientists worldwide and enabling justice through streamlining sexual assault sample analysis by automating differential extraction on the QIAcube Connect and identifying samples that will succeed using the novel Investigator Casework GO! Kit. Investigators can also improve downstream assay decision making using the Investigator Quantiplex Pro RGQ Kit and confirm the presence of seminal fluid/sperm using the PyroMark Q48 Autoprep.

2019 Webinars

Did you miss any of the live sessions? Don’t worry – they are available on-demand and you can watch at your leisure! If you have any burning questions, message us at!

You can view Lisa’s presentation and read an application note to discover how to improve your casework outcomes with low template samples and gain more confidence in your evidence!

DNA extraction is a crucial step in forensic casework, especially when working with low template samples such as touch DNA or telogen hair roots. Direct lysis with the new Investigator Casework GO! Kit saves most of the valuable biological material for downstream analysis. Comparison of different extraction methods demonstrates the superiority of casework direct methods.

Young Investigator Lisa Dierig discusses her research on forensic ‘touch DNA’ evidence
Lisa Dierig is a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Legal Medicine, Ulm, Germany.
In this webinar, we are introduced to a large-scale SNP-based forensic identification panel for DNA analysis with massively parallel sequencing (MPS). The panel was specifically designed for the challenges of identifying missing persons; where DNA is frequently highly degraded, and relationship tests may involve reference samples from across several generations and in a deficient pedigree.

Check out more HID webinars here!
Thomas Parsons
Development of a large, massively parallel sequencing SNP panel for missing persons identification: Dr. Thomas Parsons, Director of Science and Technology, ICMP, The Hague

Product Launches

The Investigator Casework GO! Kit can be used to perform lysis of forensic samples on a variety of substrates, including sexual assault swabs, pieces of fabric, paper, cigarette butts, chewing gum and other sample types, including skin flakes. The generated lysates are compatible with all Investigator Quantiplex and Investigator STR QS Systems. Read the application notes and watch the webinar to learn more about extracting DNA from touch traces and other low template substrates.

Investigator Casework GO! Kit
Investigator Casework GO! Kit
The Investigator 26plex QS Kit is for human identification, allowing multiplex amplification of all Chinese National database loci, CODIS-required markers, and Amelogenin. Due to the choice of markers the kit offers best-in-class discrimination power. The Investigator 26plex QS Kit with Quality Sensor technology generates additional, valuable data for your quality control and performance checks. Highly sensitive, yielding rapid and reliable results from trace DNA, the Investigator 26plex QS Kit is suitable for all forensic applications and paternity testing.
Investigator 26plex QS Kit
Investigator 26plex QS Kit
QIAcube Connect allows fully automated nucleic acid extraction with QIAGEN’s spin-column kits. It can automate over 80 QIAGEN kits with over 140 standard protocols for the most frequently used applications. The instrument enables quick response times and remote run monitoring through the provided tablet. With advanced digital capabilities and connectivity, QIAcube Connect allows research labs to fully automate QIAGEN protocols at the push of a button. QIAcube Connect offers an augmented user interface for a new dimension of utility. Researchers stay connected through the built-in screen and remotely with a tablet running the pre-installed QIAcube Connect App.
QIAcube Connect