Doctor Jillian Conte, a Fulbright Specialist, is concluding a visit to Belize where she is designing an updated population genetics study for the National Forensic Science Service. This will look at the common genetic markers in the population to help with the reporting of DNA work in country. The NFSS Director says that it is the first step to doing DNA testing in country.
Gian Cho, Director, National Forensic Science Service
“It is one of those seeds that we are planting that we won’t see bear right away, but we need to plant it someday if we want it be able to take on DNA analysis at the NFSS someday.”
“Could you put into perspective the significance of her being here and actually laying the foundation? From what I understand it is really expensive for us to send out the DNA samples to get tested in an accredited lab in the U.S.”
“Eventually, when we have DNA analysis done at the NFSS, we will be able to not only reduce the turnaround time for DNA results, but also do more DNA test for police investigations or at the very least to identify and unidentified set of human remains. So it is extremely important in terms of being able to provide a more efficient, a more timely forensic science service to our stakeholders which not only includes the justice system, but the people of Belize. Like I said, some of these DNA tests are not criminal cases; it is just to identify a loved one that was found in an advanced state of decomposition.”
At this time, turnaround time for DNA testing has been reduced from six months to about two to three months. Results for cases sent by the National Forensic Science Service generally return in six weeks. Cho says that it is now about minimizing the delay from the time the police submits the item to lab to when it is shipped overseas.