1. How did you personally become interested in working in the field of DNA testing?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to do something scientific. I started my academic career at ASU studying Chemistry which eventually became Molecular Bioscience. I was really interested in plant biology. During that time at ASU, most of the biotech courses focused on genetically engineered plants. After college I had the opportunity to work with a private DNA laboratory, Chromosomal Labs, Inc. I worked as a DNA Scientists and Senior DNA Case Manager. In 2009, I started iTest DNA, a direct to consumer DNA consulting agency. In 2014, DNA Testing - The Genetics Company became a division of iTest DNA. I now work as a DNA Case Manager for both, using my expertise in the science of DNA to help solve some of life's toughest questions.
2. It sounds like paternity testing makes up quite a bit of your business. Why is this such a high-demand service?
Paternity testing is the bulk of all Identification DNA Services. The majority of the work I do is in the legal arena. The state and federal courts request DNA testing in order to prove relationships between children and parents. As the courts continue to increase the requests, the demand continues to rise. In these cases, 90% of the time the parents know the outcome of the test. The courts and attorneys request it for confirmation. At the state level we are listed on the Maricopa County Superior Court List; at the federal level all of our tests are performed by an AABB Accredited laboratory, a requirement for immigration testing.
I also work with clients who just want peace of mind. Most of the clients who request DNA testing are fathers. Testing of this nature involves a lot of children under the age of 2. These men are living with the feeling of uncertainty. It eats at you daily, and each time you see your potential child. Sometimes they don't feel a bond, or they do and they wonder if they should. It means a lot to me that my clients trust me to help answer that question.
3. What are some other types of DNA testing that your lab commonly works on?
Our second most common test is a variation of paternity testing called Secret DNA Testing. In these cases, our clients provide forensic samples that they secretly collect in place of the standard swabs. We work on a range of scenarios, from mothers secretly testing their husbands to fathers secretly testing their children. We receive a lot of ear wax and toothbrushes. Sibling DNA testing and Grandparent DNA testing are also very popular tests. They are popular when the fathers don't want to be, or can't be involved in testing. We have a lot of grandmothers who question the paternity of their grandchildren. A sibling test can confirm that two children have the same father. A grandparent test can confirm that children and grandparents are related.
4. How does DNA testing at home work?
While we highly recommend working with a professional certified DNA collector for the most accurate and guaranteed results, we do provide DNA @Home testing kits. We are local to the Phoenix area, and we provide the test kits mostly to our local clients. Our local clients choose our service because they can pick up a test kit from one of our offices. It makes the process more personal, and since the test is very personal in nature, it's an important level of client service. A lot of people are familiar with the test kits you can buy at the drug stores. We don't require our clients to buy the kit; it's included in the flat rate of our test. The clients painlessly collect skin from inside their mouths. They complete consent paperwork and return the kits to our facilities. The kits are processed and results are available in about three business days. We send our test results by text message and email. We provide the report with the doctor's signature in the email.
5. What other information would you like our readers to know about your work with DNA tests?
If I could offer clients one piece of advice, it would be work with a certified collector. I'd say about 35% of our peace of mind clients have already done a home DNA test that they've bought online. They come to us looking to us to confirm those results. In those cases, they're buying twice, which they can avoid if they come to us up front. Of course, I'd recommend that they work with us directly: our prices are very fair, and I always say, you should never put a price on peace of mind.
I keep a blog on DNA testing at www.itestdna.net/blog, where I welcome questions and comments from current and potential clients. Thanks for the interview, Amanda.