Landscape Study of Next Generation Sequencing Technologies for Forensic Applications

Landscape Study of Next Generation Sequencing Technologies for Forensic Applications


April 2023


The National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE), led by RTI International, provides valuable resources that promote the use of novel and innovative technologies in the forensic community. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a massively parallel sequencing technology that analyzes DNA samples based on size and sequence. This method enables Forensic Science Service Providers (FSSPs) to obtain additional information from an increased number of target regions by generating more comprehensive and robust data in less time than traditional sequencing methods. Beyond human identification, NGS technology has been researched as a technique to improve, for example, kinship testing and postmortem interval (PMI) estimation, which could benefit forensic casework. Although the use of NGS is increasing, FSSPs have been slow to adopt this technology for several reasons, including lack of funding, staffing, and laboratory space; the need for additional staff training; the time and effort required to restructure analytical reports; the potential need to align with accreditation requirements; and FSSPs’ underdeveloped working knowledge of bioinformatics and the software used to analyze the data generated. This landscape study provides an overview of NGS technology, its application to various forensic science disciplines, and information on currently available NGS products specific to forensic science. Furthermore, this study summarizes considerations that impact product procurement and implementation within FSSPs. This landscape study focuses on the implementation of forensic science–specific, commercially available products for NGS and lessons learned from both publicly funded and private FSSPs that are early adopters of this technology.

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence report was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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