Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $150,000)
The intent of this project is to identify the most efficient, accurate, reliable and cost-effective screening method for the identification and analysis of forensic toxicology evidence for criminal justice purposes. The goal is to produce a validated screening method that can be replicated in other toxicology laboratories in the forensic community and have a direct impact on their casework efficiency. The Washington State Patrol's (WSP) Toxicology Laboratory receives approximately 12,000 suspected impaired driving cases and death investigation cases annually. The Toxicology Laboratory currently conducts up to three general drug screens to aid in identifying which drugs are present in each case sample- these methods include an immunoassay screen, a screen for basic drugs, and a screen for acidic-neutral drugs. Specific quantification methods are then used to confirm any identified drug(s). Performing three separate drug screens on each sample is typically cost-prohibitive and most submitted case evidence undergoes only one or two drug screens depending on the case circumstances. In addition to being expensive, these three initial drug screens are unable to identify many drugs that are now relevant in our casework; drugs such as atypical antipsychotic medications and buprenorphine, and illicit substances such as fentanyl analogs, synthetic cannabinoids ('spice') and synthetic cathinones ('bath salts'). Cases need to be sent to a reference laboratory in order for these drugs to be identified and confirmed. Many state and local government laboratories face similar problems, and although more sensitive screening instruments and techniques are now available, the initial outlay of costs is prohibitive for many laboratories. Furthermore, these laboratories often have increasing backlogs and do not have the time or resources to allow competent personnel to develop and validate replacement methods using newer technologies.
The specific objectives are to (1) develop and validate a broad ranging screening method using ILC-TOF-MS, (2) compare and evaluate the efficiency (accuracy, sensitive, breadth) of the new I LC-TOF-MS screening method with the laboratory's current screening approach, (3) conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the new LC-TOF-MS screening method, and (4) to summarize and disseminate the results of this project to the general forensic toxicology community through publications and presentations. The results of this project will assist other laboratories with current backlogs and limited resources to decide how best to efficiently process and analyze their toxicology evidence.
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