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Abbott Collaborates with Leading U.S. Forensics Center on Human Identification Testing

UNT Health Science Center Evaluating Abbott’s PLEX-ID System and Mitochondrial DNA Assay


Abbott Park, Illinois (NYSE: ABT) — Abbott has entered into an agreement with the University of North Texas Science Center, one of the nation’s leading forensics institutions, to evaluate the company’s award-winning PLEX-ID™ instrument for use in analyzing human remains to support missing persons and human trafficking investigations. UNT Health Science Center works closely with state and federal law enforcement agencies and identifies a large percentage of human remains found in the United States every year.

Through a collaborative research agreement, Abbott has installed a PLEX-ID analyzer at UNT Health Science Center and is supplying the PLEX-ID mtDNA assay to characterize mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from aged or degraded biological specimens, such as hair, tissue, bones, teeth and body fluids.

Mitochondrial DNA is directly inherited by children from their mothers and is present at hundreds or thousands of copies per cell. In forensics, mtDNA testing often is the only suitable method for analyzing highly degraded samples. For cases that have gone unsolved for many years, mtDNA testing compares mtDNA profiles from unidentified remains with mtDNA profiles from maternal relatives to help identify missing persons or victims of homicides or natural disasters.

The PLEX-ID analyzer is capable of running both mtDNA and nuclear DNA forensics assays in a single, fully automated run. PLEX-ID combines two molecular technologies (polymerase chain reaction and high precision electrospray ionization mass spectrometry) to establish and compare the base mtDNA profile derived from biological specimens. The PLEX-ID mtDNA assay was introduced in 2011 and is being used in a growing number of forensics labs around the world.

“Working with the UNT Health Science Center is a major step toward establishing PLEX-ID as a system of choice for DNA testing in forensics laboratories,” said Steven A. Hofstadler, Ph.D., divisional vice president of research and development for Abbott’s Ibis Biosciences subsidiary. “We are confident PLEX-ID will bolster UNT’s efforts in identifying human remains.”

Hofstadler added that the ability of PLEX-ID to rapidly analyze mtDNA from highly degraded samples allows forensic scientists to quickly and confidently perform mtDNA tests on samples that otherwise would not yield information. “The PLEX-ID mtDNA assay is more discriminating than conventional methods and can be used to characterize samples containing DNA from more than one person. PLEX-ID detects subtle differences in DNA markers that are not detected by conventional forensic assays, thus yielding a higher resolution comparison between evidentiary and reference samples,” he said.

About UNT Health Science Center

The University of North Texas Health Science Center comprises the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Public Health, and the School of Health Professions. Key research areas include aging and Alzheimer’s disease, applied genetics, primary care and prevention. This year, the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine was named a top 50 medical school in primary care by U.S. News & World Report for the ninth consecutive year. For more information, go to


Currently intended for non-diagnostic use, PLEX-ID is the only high-throughput technology that offers rapid and broad identification of bacteria, viruses, fungi, certain parasites, and also provides information on drug resistance, virulence, and strain type. The system employs a combination of molecular technologies, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for nucleic acid amplification and mass spectrometry analysis to rapidly characterize known and unknown organisms. PLEX-ID also can be employed for human identification testing with assays that target mitochondrial DNA and nuclear assays that characterize short tandem repeats and autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms.

In 2009, PLEX-ID was recognized by both The Scientist and the Wall Street Journal as a top scientific innovation of the year. The Scientist honored the system because it can detect and characterize a broad range of microorganisms in any given sample.

About Ibis Biosciences

Ibis Biosciences was acquired by Abbott in January 2009 with the focus to deliver an innovative approach to the detection and characterization of a broad array of microorganisms and to contribute to Abbott’s expanding role in molecular testing.

About Abbott

Abbott (NYSE: ABT) is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics. The company employs approximately 91,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries.


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