What is Rapid DNA?

Rapid DNA is the generation of a DNA ID to identify an individual quickly (less than 2 hours).

The faster DNA results are available, the more they can impact critical military, forensic, homeland security, and intelligence decisions. And to maximize the impact of DNA identification for law enforcement, homeland defense, disaster victim identification and military applications, rapid DNA systems must be operable in the field.

The FBI defines Rapid DNA as “the fully automated (hands free) process of developing a CODIS Core Loci STR profile from a reference sample buccal swab. The “swab in – profile out” process consists of automated extraction, amplification, separation, detection, and allele calling without human intervention.”

The Rapid DNA Act of 2017 

The bipartisan, bicameral Rapid DNA Act of 2017 was passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives on May 16, 2017.

The Rapid DNA Act establishes a system for the integration of Rapid DNA instruments for use by law enforcement "to solve and prevent violent crimes and other crimes, to exonerate the innocent, to prevent DNA analysis backlogs". Unlike traditional DNA analysis, which can take weeks, Rapid DNA analysis processes DNA samples in less than two hours.

This technology has the potential to change the paradigm for law enforcement.  It can be deployed in investigative operations and booking facilities. Rapid DNA provides law enforcement officials with a new system that meets FBI quality assurance standards to compare DNA samples collected at the time of an arrest to profiles in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Author of the bill, Senator Orrin Hatch said, "This commonsense proposal will enable law enforcement to analyze DNA in record time, reducing backlogs in rape kits and keeping violent criminals off our streets.  By facilitating the use of rapid DNA technology, this bill will also help to exonerate those wrongly accused of crime." 

The following organizations have sent letters of support for the Rapid DNA Act of 2015 and/or the Rapid DNA Act of 2017:

·         Peace Officers Research Association of California

·         National District Attorneys Association

·         National Association of Police Organizations

·         Major Cities Chiefs Association

·         International Association of Chiefs of Police 

·         National Fraternal Order of Police

·         Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations

·         Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association


The Rapid DNA Act also received strong support from US Attorney General Sessions

DNA IDs and Privacy:

DNA IDs are not Genetic Profiles - the two tests look at different aspects of an individual, are performed for different purposes. A DNA ID simply identifies an individual, while a Genetic Profile is designed to assess the health of an individual, and contains essentially every piece of genetic information in the human genome. To put this in perspective, a DNA ID contains approximately one-millionth of the information in a Genetic Profile.

DNA IDs are the optimal identification tool for two major reasons:

  1. DNA IDs are far more accurate than any other biometric modality including conventional fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scans, and voice recognition.
  2. DNA IDs preserve privacy - they contain absolutely no useful information about an individual other than identification. A DNA ID contains much less usable information than an individual's address, phone number, photograph, or browser search history.

The ability of DNA IDs to identify a person with exquisite accuracy is accompanied by an emphasis on privacy protection - the DNA ID generates absolutely no information concerning an individual's health or body composition or organic strengths or weaknesses.

Besides identifying an individual, DNA IDs can do two other things:

  • DNA IDs can determine gender. This is accomplished by determining if an individual has just X chromosomes (female) or X and Y chromosomes (male). Gender is a politically-charged topic in some circles today - so to be clear, DNA IDs determine gender based solely on chromosomes.
  • DNA IDs from two or more individuals can be compared to determine if the individuals are close biological relatives. DNA is passed from parent to child, and each child inherits half of his or her DNA from each parent. That means that by comparing DNA IDs, it is essentially always possible to determine if two people are parent, and child, often possible to determine if two people are likely to be siblings, and sometimes possible to determine if two people are likely to be grandparent-grandchild or aunt/uncles-niece/nephew. The use of DNA IDs in kinship analysis has been applied to Law Enforcement (familial searching), paternity testing, immigration, and disaster victim identification.

DNA IDs represent the most accurate and most private approach to human identification. The test provides Law Enforcement with a highly effective public safety tool while preserving the privacy of our citizens.