Houston-area lab using new DNA technology in hopes to help solve cold cases

THE WOODLANDS, Texas (KTRK) -- A southeast Texas company is hopeful their technology might change forensics forever and lead to the end of cold cases.

Othram built their lab in 2019 in The Woodlands. Kristen Mittelman with Othram said the company uses DNA sequencing and genomic technology to help identify victims and perpetrators for law enforcement.

"People won't have to wait decades to find out what happened to their loved one ever again," said Kristen Mittelman. "As I said, you need a very small percentage of the population in order to be able to identify everyone. That small percentage of the population is already in these databases so no, you could not opt out. If you left DNA at a crime scene, I'm here to say you'll probably get caught. It's a matter of time now. We've solved murders from 62 years ago."

Othram's CEO, David Mittelman, welcomed ABC13 onto their campus earlier in April. There, he showed us the cartridges used in their sequencer to build a DNA profile, which is taken from evidence often worn down with time or too tiny to extract with traditional methods.

"What street corner can you go to, to solve a cold case?" said David Mittelman. "We saw an opportunity to bring the technology to an area that is massively underserved."

So far, they've seen success. Othram's website features multiple cases that were solved with their help, and expertise.

They use the site to crowdfund since they don't have any dedicated funding, and the technology costs about $5,000 per cold case.

"Until we can bridge that divide between people knowing the technology exists and the government actually funding this technology so it can work at scale in the United States. We need people to come out here, like you, and tell this story," said Kristen Mittelman. "To explain the difference and to bring awareness to what's possible so that it's required."

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