Thermo Fisher offers DNA analysers to aid US border family reunions

Charlotte Edwards 25 June 2018 (Last Updated June 25th, 2018 16:19)

Biotechnology company Thermo Fisher Scientific is planning to donate $1m worth of rapid DNA analysers and related technology to help reunite children separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

Thermo Fisher offers DNA analysers to aid US border family reunions
Thousands of families have been separated at the US-Mexico border in recent weeks. Credit: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

Biotechnology company Thermo Fisher Scientific is planning to donate $1m worth of rapid DNA analysers and related technology to help reunite children separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

The company claims that its ‘breakthrough technology’ takes just 90 minutes to get a result from a sample, ensuring fast, easy and accurate DNA matching.

Thousands of families have been separated at the US-Mexico border in recent weeks due to a zero-tolerance policy announced by the Trump administration in early May. The policy meant that if families tried to illegally cross the border then the parents would be sent to prison whilst any children would be taken into custody as ‘unaccompanied minors’. However, mounting public pressure has resulted in President Trump signing an executive order calling for an end to family separations.

Thermo Fisher is offering its donation in response to widespread calls for accredited technology solutions to help with the current separation crisis. The company’s RapidHIT system can be set up at locations within 24 hours. It enables easy sampling as the self-contained collection kits only require a cheek swab. Other features include the rapid sample processing times and improved privacy and security, due to results only being directly forwarded to an authorised party and samples being destroyed after processing to prevent future testing.

Thermo Fisher Scientific president and CEO Marc Casper said: “Thermo Fisher’s Mission is to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer, and this is another great example of how we can provide technology to address a societal challenge.

“We’re proud to offer our rapid DNA testing instruments to help reunite children with their families, here and all over the world.”

As RapidHIT provides a DNA fingerprint solely for identification purposes, it does not require additional genetic information that can trigger privacy concerns. Thermo Fisher has referred to this kind of DNA fingerprint as the gold standard for paternity testing. The technology has been an established method of identification for more than 20 years in the US. It is also used worldwide for DNA analysis, with more than 140,000 samples run on the rapid DNA platform to date.