Lakehead University Paleo-DNA Lab teams up with local biotech lab to build DNA forensic tool

Canadian police investigators are often hesitate using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in criminal cases because there is concern about this mtDNA’s reliability. Currently, the only available mtDNA database, which was created by the FBI, has a relatively small number of samples and no Canadian individuals in it. This concern has been raised repeatedly in Canadian courts, since the database does not properly represent Canada’s multi-ethnic population. However through collaboration between Lakehead University’s Paleo-DNA Laboratory and the DNA-tech company Dyacon Gama Warnex Pro DNA, (a division of Dynacare Gama Lab), a new mtDNA database will be built upon an existing FBI database.
 
These two leading North America’s mtDNA laboratories will add 2,500 Canadian individuals to the existing 4,839 individuals in the current FBI database. The database (being dubbed the MitoNorth database) upon completion in two years should inspire confidence among Canadian investigators using mtDNA identification services. In addition to increasing the number of entries, the project will also include additional ethnicity groups to represent current North American population statistics (such as additions of Native American, Chinese, East Indian among other groups). When the database is complete it will be used by forensic experts to determine how often a particular mtDNA profile obtained from a crime scene is present in the suspect’s ethnic population. The data generated from this project will assist North American law enforcement officials to incarcerate guilty parties, while adding credibility to the acquittal of innocent individuals. Both objectives are in the best interest of public safety.
 
The $1.35 million project is has been made possible through $676,100 in funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC), $338,050 from FedNor, as well as in-kind contributions from the Lakehead University Paleo-DNA Lab and WARNEX. The MitoNorth database will be owned jointly by Dyacon Gama Warnex Pro DNA and Paleo-DNA, which are both located in Thunder Bay. These two labs are the only ones in Canada facilities providing mtDNA services to law enforcement and defense in Canada. Government forensic labs in Canada are not accredited in mtDNA, and do not have mtDNA capabilities.The MitoNorth database will become a made-in-Canada property expanding high-tech economic development in Thunder Bay, while increasing the city’s research potential.
 
This fall the project will be looking for volunteers to participate in this university-industry project by donating DNA anonymously to the database.

LUCAS Lakehead University