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Genetics & Justice Laboratory

The Genetics & Justice Laboratory (GxJ Lab) is a “dry” policy laboratory designed to investigate human rights and humanitarian-based policy applications of genetic information as used in non-medical applications, such as law enforcement, immigration, displacement, mass disasters, missing persons, human trafficking, 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 and identify missing persons. While use of DNA for criminal law enforcement purposes is accepted broadly, application in human rights and immigration contexts is fraught with challenges regarding data security, privacy, respect for persons, abuse of power, beneficence, and resource allocation.

At Lurie Children’s 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 human rights contexts, with an initial focus on DNA identification.

The research team is led by Instructor Sara H. Katsanis and encompasses aspects of how genomics is integrated into law enforcement, immigration processes, and as a tool for humanitarian applications.

Genomics, Biometrics & Identity Projects

  • DNA for family reunification across borders
  • DNA collection from migrants
  • Biogeographic ancestry markers from migrant applicants
  • DNA for identification of missing migrants

Other Related Projects

  • DNA in forensics and law enforcement
  • Genomics issues in the media
  • Reunification of separated families
  • Resources for the public on DNA uses at the border

Meet the Team