Alec Jeffreys

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Professor Sir Alec John Jeffreys, FRS, (born in 9 January 1950 at Luton in Bedfordshire) is a British geneticist, who developed techniques for DNA fingerprinting and DNA profiling.

After graduating from Oxford University, he moved to Leicester University in 1977, where he developed genetic fingerprinting. DNA fingerprinting uses variations in the genetic code to identify individuals. The technique has been applied in forensics for law enforcement, to resolve paternity and immigration disputes, and can be applied to non-human species, for example in wildlife population genetics studies.

Jeffrey's DNA technique was used in the first regional screen of human DNA to identify the rapist and killer of two girls in Narborough, Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986. Colin Pitchfork was identified through the screen and convicted of murder after samples taken from him matched semen samples taken from the two dead girls.

Jefferys refined his DNA fingerprinting technique, by developing DNA profiling based on highly variable minisatellites in the human genome. DNA profiling therefore focused on just a few of these highly variable minisatellites, making the system more sensitive, more reproducible and amenable to computer databasing. With highly automated and sophisticated equipment, the modern-day DNA fingerprinter can process hundreds of samples a day.Jefferys DNA profiling technique was the basis for the National DNA database (NDNAD) launched in Britain in 1995. Under British law, anyone now convicted of a serious offence has their DNA profile stored on a database. The DNA information of 250,000 people is now stored on that database.

Jeffereys and his team are now studying the effects of chronic irradiation such as that which has followed the melt down of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. Other areas of interest include analysis of human genome instability and recombination processes by single gamete and transgenic approaches. He is also investigating the effects of ionising radiation on germline mutation.

He was elected an FRS in 1986, declared Midlander of the Year in 1989, and was knighted in 1994. In 1996, he was awarded the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. He was awarded the Australia Prize in 1998. In 2004 he was awarded his D.Sc. by the University of Leicester and the Royal Medal by the Royal Society.

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