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DNA testing at rapid speeds to help fight crime in Southwest Florida

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 05:23:15-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — DNA testing at rapid speeds - it's called the Ande Rapid DNA Instrument and there are currently four counties here in Florida that have this new technology including Lee County.

The Ande Rapid DNA instrument gives results in just 90 minutes. That's a huge change from having to wait days or sometimes even months to get results back. This system is right inside the Lee County Sheriff's Office Forensics Center.

Up to four tests can be done at once through this Ande Rapid DNA Instrument... Swabs are taken from DNA samples and can be used in murders, rapes, and missing person cases just to list a few.

"To have the technology to assist them in their job and to get the answers they need almost immediately - it’s a game-changer," says Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

The technology was credited in leading investigators to a suspect in a murder case last week in Lee County.

"So, let’s say we have an investigation like the last homicide - we were able to take blood from the scene and match it with evidence at a different location in 90 minutes. It’s not everything we need, but again, it’s putting an investigation together piece by piece and that’s the game-changer," Sheriff Marceno said.

Once run through for testing, the DNA results remain in the database.

"When you send evidence out to FDLE to get processed, it takes months. It’s just waiting months to get the evidence. This is 90 minutes - 90 minutes, we can turn that around immediately," says Sheriff Marceno.

"This actually is a tremendous change in terms of DNA technology," says Dr. Sulekha Coticone who's the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at FGCU. She has extensive research in forensic biochemistry.

"The DNA technology has improved over many years. When I started in the business in 1999, it was much slower. Now, in the past decade or so, it’s really ramped up and there are a lot of steps - so it takes at least a couple of days or it could take as much as a month to get the actual results. This particular instrument is useful because it has everything in one instrument," says Dr. Coticone.

90 minutes can make all the difference in helping to fight crime right here in Southwest Florida.

"That’s huge for us - it’s huge for Southwest Florida -any department whether it’s Collier, Port Charlotte, FDLE, I mean, whoever needs it they can come in and we can help everyone to be the team that we need to be to solve these crimes," adds Sheriff Marceno.

The technology costs more than $200,000. It was a donation and its use of it began in April.

Once complete after 90 minutes, the results come out. Lee County Sheriff's Office says this is just one piece of technology that can help keep crime rates low and get the bad guys off the streets.