Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon) announced today receipt of a grant from the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council to fund a blind evaluation study of the company's Snapshot DNA Phenotyping Service, the first law enforcement service capable of producing a composite image of a person from a DNA sample, according to the company. Dr. Ellen McRae Greytak, Director of Bioinformatics at Parabon, is the Principal Investigator on the project, which is designed to measure Snapshot's accuracy on DNA samples from volunteers whose appearance will be concealed from the Parabon Snapshot team. Dr. Bruce Budowle, Executive Director of the Institute of Applied Genetics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, will recruit study participants and conduct the formal evaluation.
The National Geographic Expeditions Council grant program supports exploration and adventure worldwide, ranging from the expeditions for which National Geographic is well known to emerging fields, such as DNA phenotyping. "It is an honor to receive this grant," said Greytak, "as it supports our efforts to demonstrate Snapshot's accuracy." Budowle, a renowned expert in DNA forensics, underscored his appreciation for the award, saying, "The National Geographic funding is extremely helpful as it will allow us to generate the data necessary for a peer-reviewed evaluation of the Snapshot technology."
Budowle and his colleagues will collect DNA samples from volunteer participants and submit them to the Snapshot team for processing. Using no information other than the genetic code extracted from these samples, Snapshot will be used to produce phenotyping reports and composites for each volunteer. Under various experimental conditions, evaluators will compare Snapshot composites against photographs of the volunteers and "distractors" deliberately chosen to confound the composite-to-photo matching tasks. Results from the study are expected in spring of 2016.
Parabon NanoLabs is a vertically integrated DNA technology company that develops next-generation forensic and therapeutic products, which leverage the enormous power of DNA. Staffed by a team of scientists and technologists with expertise ranging from bioinformatics and chemistry to computer science and pharmacology, Parabon is bringing to market new products and services made possible by recent advances in DNA sequencing, analysis, and manufacturing technologies.