The Mass Fatality Identification System (M-FISys)

The complete solution for DVI & Missing Persons casework

Wherever there is the need for DNA identification of human remains, M-FISys is uniquely able to make sense of huge quantities of data and to assist in the task of victim identification. Even when ante-mortem data is unavailable, M-FISys' kinship analysis lets family members know if remains collected from a disaster belong to their missing relatives. In addition to forming a valuable addition to the emergency response repertoire on a national or local level, M-FISys is also able to handle data from large-scale civil incidents such as air crashes, where human remains are frequently fragmented.

We initially developed M-FISys for identification of the victims of the World Trade Center disaster in 2001. Since then, years of close work with forensic scientists on the front lines of victim identification has resulted in a comprehensive solution for data management in victim identification situations.

Our integrated approach to disaster data management includes both software and services components:

The M-FISys database has extensive capabilities for:

  • CODIS compatible file exchange, ensuring interoperability with existing standards.
  • Operation in a network environment with multiple users, or as a standalone system that can be run entirely on a common laptop. This flexibility allows M-FISys to adapt to any scale disaster or work environment.
  • Direct matching of DNA profiles to personal effects (references), with immediate access to supporting documents including images and PDF files associated with that sample.
  • Screening by STR/SNP or Mito with inter-assay concordance checks for increased confidence
  • One-to-many and many-to-many searches based on user-defined thresholds for statistics or allele counts. The ability to easily do a many-to-many comparison is unique to M-FISys
  • Automatic generation of complete match reports with statistics, providing confidence for accurate identifications.
  • Automatic screening of all samples against exclusion profiles (e.g., laboratory personnel), reducing the chance of misidentification through laboratory contamination of samples.
  • Virtual Profiles, combining multiple test results from a single sample, with concordance & conflict reporting, another feature unique to M-FISys! This greatly simplifies work with fragmented samples, or degraded samples that have been assayed many times.
  • Kinship matching to family references. Samples can contribute to more than one case and M-FISys can handle complex pedigrees. Profiles can have multiple roles, allowing a direct reference or newly identified person to be used as a reference for another. Profiles can be reassigned to other references if needed, greatly increasing their flexibility.
  • Graphical pedigree displays with editable relationships, and a complete set of Pedigree drawing tools to graphically specify likelihood ratio scenarios. The results are obvious without having to manually evaluate complex equations.
  • Calculation of likelihood ratios and posterior probabilities with flexible, intuitive parameters. No typing in of complex symbolic algebra!
  • Calculation of population statistics based on sample size. M-FISys can use any population statistics database required, including user-supplied statistics for particular population groups.
  • Integration of non-DNA data, such as anthropological descriptions, location where remains were recovered (including GPS or grid coordinates), and identifications made by fingerprints, dental or other methods. Annotations can include free-form text. This level of integration is unique to M-FISys, and allows the Forensic Scientist to save time and work more efficiently with all the data readily accessible.
  • Multiple levels of secure access privileges including "Administrator Only" functions. Specific operators can be assigned to samples or groups of samples.
  • Extensive management reports giving you insight into your data, including Administrative review tools to establish sample chain of custody, and audit-trails on critical operations.
  • QA tools allowing you to spot inconsistencies and errors in the data that may be the result of commingled remains, sample switches or contamination and greatly reduce the chance of a false-identification. Additional tools provide Data validation to reduce operator error on data entry, including automatic correction of common errors in mtDNA nomenclature (Anderson/CRS numbering)
  • Extensive work lists and project management tools to help your team work effectively and efficiently, ensuring that no data falls through the cracks, and provides immediate feedback on the progress of the identification efforts.
  • The system is highly scalable, and has already been proven in real-world situations with well over 100,000 data samples.
  • M-FISys has a modular design, allowing new analysts to learn the specific parts of the program they need to contribute productively, often on the very first day they use the program. This short learning curve allows a very rapid response in DVI situations.
  • Data compatibility with all current commercially available kits and markers and extensible for custom systems and marker sets as needed, to ensure long-term usability.

M-FISys in Use

In November 2001, M-FISys was used by the New York Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to expedite the identification of the 265 victims of American Airlines flight 587, the second-largest commercial air disaster in US history. M-FISys was also used early in the Thai Tsunami disaster of December 2004 for DNA identification of victims.

But M-FISys is not limited to DVI work. M-FISys has also been applied to missing-persons work and has all the tools needed to catalog DNA from unidentified human remains and from the relatives of those missing. It is uniquely capable of determining if any remains on record could belong to any relative of a person reported missing through bulk kinship analysis.

The accurate and timely identification of large sets of human remains depends on the evaluation of a wide range of complex information by a forensics expert. The purpose of M-FISys is to facilitate this process without automating it -- the final identification must be done by a qualified person in possession of all the facts. M-FISys is capable of integrating and filtering a range of data sources, performing quality checks and complex analyses and presenting the user with a range of evidence through an intuitive interface. M-FISys software is the first to combine STR, mtDNA and SNP data in an integrated manner, with subsystems for quality control, progress reporting and workflow management.

M-FISys Screen Capture - STR Master List

Raw genetic analyses of Simple Tandem Repeats (STRs), Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), and Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be viewed through the M-FISys Master List. Analyses can be grouped using variable parameters to identify fragments belonging to the same person and to build up a consensus DNA profile from badly damaged remains.

M-FISys presents users with a rich set of information to enable them to make their best judgment in the identification of a victim. Other pieces of information visible to users on this screen include which samples have been positively identified (marked in red), the population likelihood of occurrence of this STR profile, and the mode of identification of each victim sample.

M-FISys Screen Capture - Mitochondrial DNA Master List

Mitochondrial DNA extracted from personal effects, kin samples and remains from a crime scene can be viewed through the same intuitive interface, and results can be displayed grouped by similarities between STR or SNP results obtained from the same materials. Information available to users includes whether a sample has been identified (in red), if a sample is a confirmed example of the mitotype of a missing person (yellow star) and a graphical representation of coverage of the mitochondrial hypervariable regions.

M-FISys is fully integrated with the Forensic Edition of the Sequencher® DNA sequence assembly tool from Gene Codes Corporation, which can automatically generate a mitotype as a list of differences from a reference sequence, or permit the user to evaluate the evidence supporting a particular base call.

Through the integration of many strands of data in a single intuitive interface, M-FISys is uniquely well qualified to assist the forensic biologist in the rapid identification of human remains. The issues of large-scale data integration and interpretation addressed by M-FISys are by no means restricted to a mass fatality and could be applied in any area of forensic casework where DNA identification is a requirement.

© 2023 Gene Codes Forensics, Inc.