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UK cops seek boffins to build handheld DNA sniffer kit

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The National Policing Improvement Agency wants to hear from companies that can supply Blighty's cops with mobile tech that spots DNA.

Apparently the cops are spending millions sending samples off for DNA analysis, only to discover that there's no human DNA present. The NPIA wants to equip investigators with handheld kit that will light up when human genetic material is present, and wants to do so within the next six months.

Given DNA traditionally lurks inside a cell nucleus, the detection kit should probably focus on identifying human skin cells or similar, though perhaps one could do something clever with reflected infrared light; the NPIA isn't being technology specific, however.

"This represents a great opportunity for private sector expertise to be involved in developing a major technical innovation that will help the police service dramatically save time and money," says Simon Bramble, the head of police science and forensics at the NPIA.

DNA can be extracted with a bit of soap, pineapple juice and a blender, but only if you start with a good deal of it. Forensic analysis generally relies on tiny samples, which are multiplied up for testing, assuming the sample actually contains any DNA. Which is what the new kit is intended to test for.

The portable tech must take less than an hour, and other than that all options are open. The NPIA will provide more details on 15 December, and wants interested companies to send an email to adapt@npia.pnn.police.uk or call 0203 113 7177 for more details. ®

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