Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

DNA Profiling Standard Wins R&D 100 Award for NIST

 A DNA Profiling Standard developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to ensure accuracy in forensic DNA analysis—the "DNA typing" technique—has been named one of the "100 most technologically significant new products of the year" by Research and Development Magazine.

The publication is recognizing the DNA Profiling Standard in its annual competition for outstanding technical innovations. Dennis J. Reeder and Kristy Richie, NIST chemists, and Jennifer Colbert, NIST physical scientist, will be honored for developing the standard at a ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 9, at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

NIST shares the award with two industrial collaborators, Life Technologies Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., and Analytical Genetic Testing Center Inc. of Denver, Colo.

The NIST DNA Profiling Standard is the first of its kind for forensic and medical labs that examine patterns in genetic material.  Commercial laboratories purchase the standard from NIST and use it to calibrate their own DNA profiling techniques.

"It provides testing laboratories with quality control checks for their entire testing process," said Reeder, who is the leader of the Biochemical Measurements Group in NIST's Biotechnology Division.

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the long spiral-shaped molecule that carries an individual's unique genetic code. Patterns in DNA can be isolated in a widely used laboratory technique known as restriction fragment length polymorphism.  When multiple numbers of DNA fragments are included in the analysis, the likelihood of two unrelated people having the same pattern is generally less than about one in hundreds of thousands.  The patterns, sometimes called "DNA fingerprints," appear as lines on a film or gel and can resemble a bar code on shopping tickets or grocery items.

The DNA Profiling Standard was first made available in August 1992.  DNA profiles are being used with increasing frequency as evidence in rape and murder trials.  They also are being used successfully to settle civil suits over paternity and child support.

With support from the National Institute of Justice, NIST developed the DNA Profiling Standard in response to concerns about accuracy and quality control of DNA profiles.  The Biotechnology Division is currently developing a new standard for a more rapid DNA profiling technique that uses a procedure known as the polymerase chain reaction.  

The DNA Profiling Standard contains male and female DNA molecules extracted from living cells, as well as precut DNA fragments that can be used as a genetic ruler.  It also includes human cells from which DNA molecules can be extracted and tested.

Laboratories that follow the Federal Bureau of Investigation protocols for DNA profiling can use the NIST standard effectively to assess their performance in each step of the procedure. 

Including this year's award, NIST researchers have won 75 R&D 100 awards since 1973.  A 1991 study by the NIST Visiting Committee, an advisory body composed of science and engineering experts from industry and academia, found that more than half of the award-winning innovations had commercial impact.  The majority of the winning entries were either adopted by private firms or translated into NIST-offered measurement services used by U.S. industry.

Research and Development Magazine has annually honored inventors and scientists around the world since 1963 by selecting the 100 most technologically significant new products and processes.  Winners are chosen by the magazine editors and a panel of more than 75 scientific experts in a variety of disciplines.

NIST is the only federal technology agency with the primary mission of helping U.S. industry to strengthen its competitiveness.  Through research, services, grants and outreach programs, NIST assists industry in developing, adapting and commercializing technologies that lead to greater productivity, higher quality, and new and improve products and services. An agency of the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST is also the nation's central measurement laboratory.

Released August 11, 1993, Updated November 27, 2017