Genetics and Justice Laboratory
The Genetics & Justice Laboratory (GxJ Lab) is a “dry” policy laboratory designed to investigate human rights and humanitarian applications of genetic information in non-medical contexts including immigration, missing persons, human trafficking, law enforcement, displacement, mass disasters, and post-war investigations. How the public views and interacts with these applications directly affects their perspectives on participation in genetic and genomic research in the medical realm.
DNA technologies are powerful tools to prevent human trafficking, identify missing persons, and link genetic families. While use of DNA for criminal law enforcement purposes is widely accepted, emerging tools and approaches in law enforcement and applications in many nonmedical contexts are fraught with challenges regarding data security, privacy, respect for persons, abuse of power, beneficence, and resource allocation.
At Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University, we are exploring the policy, science, and ethics of genomic information for identification purposes. We seek to develop a sophisticated understanding of the key challenges for applying scientific technologies and biometrics in support of and in line with human rights, with an initial focus on DNA identification and an emerging focus on facial images as a biometric.
The research team is led by Sara H. Katsanis and encompasses aspects of how genomics is integrated into law enforcement, immigration processes, and humanitarian efforts.
- DNA to aid reunification of separated migrant families
- BorderDNA Resources project
- DNA for identification of missing migrants
- DNA to verify migrant family relationships
- DNA collection from migrants for law enforcement
- Perspectives on biometric applications
- DNA in forensics and law enforcement
- Investigative genetic genealogy
- Improvements to missing person investigation practices
- Genomics issues in the media
Sara Huston, MS, is the Principal Investigator of the Genetics and Justice Laboratory, which explores the policy, science, and ethics of genomic information for identification purposes. The laboratory is working towards a sophisticated understanding of the key challenges for applying scientific technologies and biometrics in human rights contexts, with an initial focus on DNA identification. Huston researches the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetics and biometric data. Her policy research focuses on genetic testing applications in humanitarian efforts, medicine, and law enforcement. She is exploring policy challenges for applying scientific technologies to human identification in human rights contexts, such as human trafficking, migration, and adoption fraud.