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Blog: A handheld DNA sequencer to fight wildlife crime

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Blog: A handheld DNA sequencer to fight wildlife crime

The illegal trade in wildlife frequently goes undetected because evidence - bushmeat from a gorilla, caviar from protected sturgeon, a bloodstain on a poacher’s machete - often defies simple visual identification. Even whole animals intercepted in the illegal pet trade can be difficult to classify just by sight. “One of the current problems with wildlife crime investigation is that in order to identify species, you either have to have a specialist, or you have to send [DNA] away for laboratory analysis, which can take weeks or even months.

To address this issue, the University of Leicester is testing a portable DNA sequencer to rapidly identify species in the field. Effectively, when fully developed this machine will allow sequencing the DNA of any organism, potentially anywhere, very quickly, with a minimal degree of training.

Working with partner Oxford Nanopore Technologies to test the device, the University of Leicester is developing the device’s forensic applications in-house. The Leicester team is also partnering with organizations, including Kenya Wildlife Service and Panthera to source relevant DNA samples to ensure accurate results. Funding is needed to scale the application of the portable DNA sequencer.

Read more here