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Professor Manfred Kayser received prestigious science prize

The Biennal Scientific Prize 2017 of the International Society for Forensic Genetics for outstanding contributions to the field of forensic genetics has been awarded to Professor Dr. Manfred Kayser, head of Erasmus MC's department of Genetic Identification.

Groundbreaking
This was announced during the 27th Congress of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) in Seoul, Korea earlier this month. Prof. Kayser received this prestigious award for his groundbreaking work in two subfields of forensic genetics: forensic DNA phenotyping and haploid markers.

Manfred Kayser ISFG2017 Scientific PrizeForensic DNA Phenotyping is a relative young subfield of forensic genetics that Kayser had pioneered, which deals with the prediction of externally visible traits from DNA such as obtained from crime scene traces, and is useful to focus police investigations for finding unknown perpetrators of crime. His milestone work on eye, hair, and skin colour, allows these to be the first appearance traits that are predictable from DNA with practically useful accuracy.

With his team and collaborators, he found underlying genes, identified predictive DNA markers, developed statistical prediction models, developed DNA tests and validated them for forensic applications. These DNA tests  are now applied for forensic casework in many countries, including in the Netherlands.

DNA profiling
The second topic for which Kayser has been  awarded is haploid markers, particularly Y-chromosome DNA markers for forensic use, which Kayser had pioneered as well. Since only males carry Y-chromosomes, Y-DNA markers are particularly useful to solve cases of sexual assault where the evidence material often reflects a mixture of male DNA (from sperm) and female DNA (from vaginal epithelial cells), which complicate standard DNA profiling.

Kayser's earlier work was instrumental in the first introduction of Y-chromosome DNA analysis to the forensic field, which today is widely used around the world. His subsequent work further improved forensic Y-DNA analysis. Together with his team and collaborators he identified many new Y-DNA markers and characterized them for forensic and other applications, including those with unusually high mutation rates, that allow differentiating male relatives, which is impossible with standard forensic Y-DNA analysis. Y-DNA tests are now internationally applied for forensic casework.

Date published: 13 September 2017.

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