Thursday, September 23

Sabah gets world-class DNA centre

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KOTA KINABALU: The Department of Chemistry Sabah branch now has its own world-class forensic DNA centre.

The facility was officially opened yesterday, making Sabah the fifth state in the country to have such a centre, after Johor, Penang, Sarawak and Selangor.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Ewon Ebin said the facility was highly needed to handle the growing number of cases in Sabah where DNA analysis was required.

He said the centre would help reduce the time and cost for related authorities, such as the police, in getting DNA analysis for evidence they used in prosecuting a suspect.

This in return may help speed up prosecution of criminal cases involving DNA evidences, he added.

“The centre will allow government departments as well as the public to get DNA analysis without having to send the sample to Kuching or Kuala Lumpur, like previously. This will reduce both the cost and time,” he said at the opening.

Based on the department’s record, the number of cases and samples referred to Kuching for DNA analysis had increased by 15 per cent on average from 2002 until last year.

In 2013, the centre in Kuching received 203 cases from Sabah, involving 1,612 DNA samples.

Speaking to reporters later, Ewon said the facility, which started operation in June, is fitted with world-class equipment and experts recognized by international bodies.

He noted that staff and experts from the centre were among those involved in identification process of the victims of MH17 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

“The centre also provides training courses for other countries, such as Singapore, Vietnam and a few others,” he said.

Apart from helping in solving criminal cases, he said the centre would also provide services to the public, including in determining kinship through DNA analysis.

While analysis for government agencies would be given for free, individuals will be charged RM1,500 per analysis.

The lab has 15 DNA experts and 61 supporting personnel and can comfortably handle 4,500 cases annually.

Also serving as a DNA database centre for the state, the lab has so far received 70 cases since starting operation about two months ago.

At the event, Ewon also launched the Malaysia Department of Chemistry SP1M pre-registration application, which allows customers to register their cases online without having to go the department’s counter.