U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Increasing Safety, Speed, Sensitivity, and Selectivity of Controlled Substance Analysis

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $299,234)

With the influx of synthetic opioids and other novel psychoactive substances (NPSs) into forensic casework over the last several years, laboratories are being required to complete a higher volume of increasingly complex cases containing increasingly toxic chemicals. These issues have translated to growing burdens on laboratories that are facing mounting backlogs. The goal of this project is to re-envision the current analytical caseflow of drug evidence and evaluate if a re-envisioned workflow can lead to increased safety, speed, sensitivity, and selectivity of the examination. The re-envisioned workflow will replace screening samples using colorimetric tests and GC-FID analyses with screening via thermal desorption direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (TD-DART-MS), a safer and more reproducible version of DART-MS, followed by a targeted gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis. By providing analysts with a more information-rich screening tool, a targeted method for confirmation will allow for a more rapid analysis with a higher sensitivity. Because different substances require different workups (i.e. liquids vs. powders), this proposal will initially focus on powders, which represent the most commonly encountered substance in casework.
Comparison of the current and re-envisioned workflows will be completed through blind evaluations of samples designed and/or collected to test common and challenging cases that have been observed in the laboratory. Metrics for comparison of the workflows include time for analysis (analyst time and instrument time), sensitivities, safety, false positive and false negative rates, and overall performance of the workflows.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: September 5, 2018