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Applied Genetics Group

Advancing technology and traceability through quality genetic measurements to aid work in Forensic and Clinical Genetics.

Since the late 1980s, NIST has had scientists involved in DNA testing. Early concerns over measurement accuracy and issues with poor quality control of forensic DNA tests caused the Department of Justice to call upon NIST scientists to help with standards development and technology evaluation. For the past several years, our Forensic Genetics Project Team has been part of the Applied Genetics of the Biomolecular Measurements Division at NIST. The Applied Genetics Group was formed to focus on developing standards and technology to aid human, plant, and animal identification and to benefit agricultural, law enforcement, and clinical applications using genetic information.  Our work is primarily nucleic acid-based and focuses on the characterization of genetic polymorphisms. We utilize the techniques of gel and capillary electrophoresis for the characterization of size- and sequence polymorphisms. Variations on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique such as rapid PCR, multiplex PCR, real-time PCR, and digital PCR are used to genotype, sequence, and provide quantitative information pertaining to an organism's genome. Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) developed by the Applied Genetics group enable accurate measurements of short tandem repeats (STRs) commonly used in the field of human identity testing. A clinical standard for the CAG triplet repeat-based Huntington's disease provides a calibration standard for the challenging measurements of these length based polymorphisms. Information and techniques developed by the Applied Genetics group are freely shared on the websites.

Projects and Programs

Biomanufacturing Initiative

Protein drugs are the top selling pharmaceuticals worldwide, a hundred billion dollar industry, but also the fastest growing category of health care costs. The

News and Updates


Digital PCR for the Characterization of Reference Materials

Megan Cleveland, Hua-Jun He, Mojca Milavec, Young-Kyung Bae, Peter Vallone, Jim Huggett
Well characterized reference materials are essential to ensuring the harmonization and accuracy of nucleic acid-based tests (such as qPCR); digital PCR (dPCR)

Harmonizing the forensic nomenclature for STR Loci D6S474 and DYS612

Martin Bodner, David Ballard, Lisa Borsuk, Jonathan King, Walther Parson, Christopher Phillips, Katherine Gettings
The autosomal short tandem repeat (STR) locus D6S474 and the Y-chromosomal STR locus DYS612 have been reported multiple ways in the forensic literature, with

Developmental Validation of the VersaPlex® 27PY System

Kristy Lenz, Stephen McDaniel, Dawn Rabbach, Becky Steffen, Douglas Storts, Robert McLaren
The VersaPlex™ 27PY System is a short tandem repeat (STR) multiplex from Promega that co-amplifies 27 loci. This six-dye multiplex was designed for casework

Results of German external quality assessment schemes for SARS-CoV-2 antigen detection

Laura Vierbaum, Nathalie Wojtalewicz, Peter Grunert, Anika Zimmerman, Annemarie Scholz, Sabine Goseberg, Patricia Kaiser, Ulf Duehring, Christian Drosten, Victor Max Corman, Daniela Niemeyer, Holger F. Rabenau, Martin Obermeier, Andreas Nitsche, Janine Michel, Jim Huggett, Denise O'Sullivan, Simon Cowen, Peter Vallone, Megan Cleveland, Samreen Falak, Andreas Kummrow, Ingo Schellenberg, Heinz Zeichhardt, Martin Kammel
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the important role of diagnostic tests, including lateral flow tests (LFTs), in identifying patients and their contacts to


Press Coverage