Forensic scientists fight the axe, competitors look to a bright future
London – The UK government’s plan to wind up its Forensic Science Service (FSS) has not only provoked fierce opposition by leading forensic scientists across the country. The Commons Science Committee also announced on January 19th that it is to hold an inquiry into the closure of Europe’s largest service facility for genetic fingerprinting. The FSS employs 1,600 people and has since 1985 carried out all forensic analyses in the UK – more than 120,000 cases per year. As the service costs the government EUR2.3m a month, many of its operations are now to be transferred to private sector enterprises by 2012. In a letter to The Times, 33 leading UK researchers headed by Alec Jeffreys called on the government not to close the FSS, saying it was essential to “ensure continuous funding for independent forensic research and development and to secure an impartial system for quality assurance to all providers of forensic services.”Competitors see the plan in a more positive light. One insider, who wished to remain anonymous, told EuroBiotechNews that the move is good news for service providers in the UK and on the European continent, as it will lead to a more balanced market situation. “The FSS has played a far too dominant role in European politics and research, outshining excellent forensic work in other countries,” he said, adding that he believed the worries about a loss of quality were overblown: “The good thing is that some decided hurdles will fall, and Europe will come to broader consensus in standardisation.” Key players in private sector forensics are Life Technologies and Promega, which hold more than 60% of the global market.