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DNA used in the fight against counterfeits and crime

Just like any other business, Pentagon is fighting hard to ensure that electronic parts that are counterfeit do not find their way into their equipments. Michelle McCaskill, the spokeswoman for Defense Logistics Agency, explained that the even though worldwide supply chain had led to major efficiencies it had also created susceptibility to counterfeits. She further said that the presence of counterfeit microcircuits placed both personal safety and weapons systems at risk. To fight this threat presented by counterfeits, the United States military has resulted to a new tactic and they are now requiring all the suppliers of microcircuits to mark them with a plant based DNA that is patented known as the SigNature DNA.

SigNature DNAThe DNA, which is manufactured in Stony Brooks in New York by Applied DNA Sciences, is a forensic marker that is undetectable by the naked eye but shows under Ultraviolet light. For increased security, each manufacture gets a sequence that is highly customized and the military verifies it in the lab. The Pentagon started using this new strategy to fight counterfeits last year in November after the conclusion of 18-month long tests which verified that it was impossible to replicate the Signature DNA of even transfer it  to different substances. Currently, the Pentagon has a total of 18 suppliers it has contracted for the supply of microcircuits that have been marked with the SigNature DNA and it is compensating them for the added costs of the marker verification.

As said by James Hayward, the chief executive of Applied DNA, the SigNature DNA is made from an extracted plant genome which is then altered slightly to make sure that it cannot be mistaken from anything else that appears naturally. The chief executive said that after altering, “a little bit of chemistry” is done to make sure the mark is appropriate for the environment it will be placed in. He also explained that Applied DNA had the ability to create an endless assortment of markers especially given the complexity of the SigNature DNA and they also have the ability to pick up any maker and manufacture an infinite amount of it.

However, even with this cutting edge anti-counterfeit strategy, the United States military is somewhat late in the game as the genetic markers from Applied DNA have been there since 2008, being used to fight counterfeit for high-end apparel and goods such as wines. European Banks are also known to use the SigNature DNA in the fight against crime by mixing it into the ink bombs that are used for the protection of the boxes carrying cash. The marker DNA had facilitated 57 convictions in the United Kingdom by June of this year.

The SigNature DNA is also a main ingredient in the DNA Fog, a new security system that marks the intruders with forensic material that is difficult to remove hence linking them to crime scenes. Hayward said that most of the times, the police know who committed the crimes but are just not able to prove it. While explaining how it works, he said that the DNA used to mark the suspect is the one used in court and not the one the suspect leaves behind.

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