Alec Jeffreys Forensic Genomics Unit

Recent developments in DNA sequencing technologies have revolutionised biology and medicine, and are now doing the same for forensic science. Massively parallel sequencing (MPS; also known as next-generation sequencing - NGS) allows much more information to be extracted from trace and damaged DNA samples, and will facilitate at-scene DNA analysis. The aim of the Alec Jeffreys Forensic Genomics Unit (based in the Department of Genetics & Genome Biology) is to be a UK centre for excellence in developing and applying MPS approaches to forensically relevant problems, including human individual identification, human population structure analysis and databasing, analysis of challenging trace materials, and animal species and individual identification.

We also have expertise in conventional capillary-electrophoresis-based short-tandem repeat (STR) typing, producing data for databases for the UK, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, and contributing to the UK Forensic Science Regulator’s 2021 Guidelines on Y-STRs. Our work underpins impact case studies submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in both 2014 and 2021, and we have provided specialist casework for the East Midlands Special Operations Unit and Hampshire Police, among others.

We are honoured that Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, who pioneered the entire field of forensic genetics back in the 1980s, has allowed us to associate his name with our unit.

Contact us: maj4@leicester.ac.uk


People

  • Professor Mark Jobling, Co-Director, Professor of Genetics
  • Dr Jon Wetton, Co-Director
  • Dr Celia May, Department of Genetics & Genome Biology: Lecturer in Genetics
  • Ms Rita Neumann, Research Assistant
  • Ms Jordan Beasley, BBSRC iCASE PhD student, partnered with Verogen
  • Mr Orie Shaw, BBSRC iCASE PhD student, partnered with Oxford Nanopore Technologies
  • Ms Margherita Colucci, BBSRC iCASE PhD student, partnered with DNA WorldWide
  • Mr Ettore Fedele, NERC-CENTA PhD student
  • Ms Emily Patterson, BBSRC iCASE PhD student, partnered with Twycross Zoo and The Zoological Society of London

Equipment and infrastructure

Our facilities include equipment for massively parallel sequencing and DNA fragment analysis:

Current projects

  • Self-examination approaches to collecting DNA evidence after sexual assault
  • Next-generation kinship, ancestry and phenotypic deduction for forensic and genealogical analysis
  • Genomic in-field approaches to great ape species- and individual identification
  • Universal species identification in the field by rapid and affordable nanopore DNA sequencing
  • Next-generation sequencing multiplexes for birds of prey: A pilot study for non-human forensics
  • Combatting the illegal trade in European eels via in-field DNA sequencing approaches
  • Developing and applying mitochondrial DNA databases for domestic cats and dogs via nanopore sequencing
  • Characterising human Y-chromosomal deletions and duplications in the 300,000 samples of the Y Haplotype Reference Database (YHRD)

Collaborators

  • Professor Lisa Smith, Department of Criminology: Empowering victims of sexual violence using novel DNA collection and examination kits
  • Professor Nuala Sheehan, Department of Health Sciences: human kinship estimation from genomic data
  • Dr Richard Oduor, Kenyatta University, Nairobi: Genetic diversity in Kenya; establishing forensic reference databases for Kenyan populations

Selected recent publications