University of Leicester showcases new approach to fight wildlife crime through portable DNA analysis tool

Posted by ap507 at Jun 01, 2016 01:34 PM |
The United States Agency for International Development and its partners are hosting an innovator showcase on Thursday 2 June to highlight recent winners of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 1 June 2016

Researchers from the University of Leicester will be presenting to government officials on Thursday 2 June on a prize-winning innovation to tackle wildlife crime using a novel DNA sequencer at an event in Washington D.C.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will host the showcase for the 16 prize winners of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge ( during which winners will demonstrate brief overviews of their contributions to combat wildlife crime.

The event will see Dr Jon Wetton and Dr Celia May from the Alec Jeffreys Forensic Genomics Unit at the University of Leicester presenting on a DNA sequencing device, the MinION - developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies - which can read the ‘barcode genes’ of animals affected by illegal trafficking in real time, allowing rapid species identification in the field.  

Dr Wetton said: “This project builds upon research carried out in 2003 when I led the Forensic Science Service team responsible for introducing species identification by DNA into UK casework. 

“Our method then was costly, as it required more than a day’s work in a well-equipped laboratory, but by using the MinION device we hope to achieve the same results about one hour from collecting a sample.”

The event will highlight how individual ingenuity has provided the global community the tools it needs to combat and prevent wildlife crimes in the 21st century.

The Challenge is a USAID-led initiative, in partnership with National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, to crowdsource global science and technological innovations to combat illegal trade in terrestrial and marine wildlife.

From a pool of 300 applicants from 52 countries, the 16 prize-winning innovations range from wildlife surveillance systems to data mining tools, and address four key wildlife trafficking issues: detecting transit routes; strengthening forensic evidence; reducing consumer demand; and tackling corruption.

The 16 prize winners will present their innovations to an invited audience of leaders from the private sector, conservation NGOs, multilateral donors, and government officials who can help scale and offer expertise and insights into ways to use these innovations in the field.


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Jon Wetton on jw418@


Share this page: