[CEATEC 2013] How many of you out there want to be forensic scientists after watching TV series such as CSI (Crime Scene Investigation)? Isn’t it just wonderful that an insanely difficult case can be cracked in an hour on TV with commercials thrown into the mix, while in the real world, there are plenty of unsolved cases, or at least cases where the leads have turned so cold? Perhaps if the local law enforcement agency had a portable DNA analyzer from NEC, things might have turned out differently. Today, we took a closer look at one of NEC’s more interesting presentations at the CEATEC 2013 showfloor – an NEC portable DNA analyzer.
The entire shebang looks something like an oversized multi-function scanner/printer, although definitely not as large as the average photocopier at the office. This amazing miniaturization is made possible thanks to NEC’s “lab on a chip” technology, where it helped shrink the PCR as well as electrophoresis components in a commercial DNA analyzer.
We were given a short demonstration on how a DNA sample can be taken – a long plastic tube with a cotton swab on one end will be used to pick up a possible DNA sample, before that part of the cotton swab is broken into a plastic container which will then be placed into the DNA analyzer itself. Right now, it takes approximately an hour or so for the NEC portable DNA analyzer to perform an analysis, cross referencing a possible match with databases of other law enforcement and intelligence agencies who are willing to share their information.
A spokesperson for NEC shared with us that the NEC portable DNA analyzer will be sold to interested law enforcement agencies from next year onwards, looking at a price tag of roughly the equivalent of $200,000 to $500,000 (20 million to 50 million yen), which is a relative bargain compared to existing generation, full sized DNA analyzers. It is hoped that the adoption rate would soar quickly, not to mention interest by the everyday layman in it to increase, too, so that the final sticker price when a fully commercial version is released to the public will be able to drop to even more affordable levels, like say, a hundred grand maybe?