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Associate Professor Peter Gunn

Biography

Peter Gunn is the Associate Professor of Forensic Biology at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), where he is also a Co-director of the Centre for Forensic Science.

Associate Professor Gunn gained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Adelaide in 1982, specialising in the manipulation and analysis of bacterial DNA. After several years in academia and business, he was appointed the Technical Director of Genetic Technologies Corporation Pty Ltd, the first company in Australia to provide human DNA testing for criminal and civil matters.

In 1992, Associate Professor Gunn was Managing Director of Silbase Scientific Services Pty Ltd., which specialised in paternity and criminal DNA testing.  He has also managed the Department of Molecular Biology at Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology, where he was responsible for establishing laboratory testing for several inherited and infectious diseases using DNA technology.

Prior to joining UTS in 2012, Associate Professor Gunn was the Senior Operations Manager of the Forensic Biology Section of the Forensic Science Services Branch at the NSW Police Force. The Forensic Biology Section was formed to provide the Forensic Service Group with specialist biological examinations and advice that are not available elsewhere in NSW. During Associate Professor Gunn’s tenure, the section conducted examinations on approximately 5,000 items from crimes ranging from break and enter, through to multiple homicides.

Associate Professor Gunn’s area of expertise includes DNA, DNA profiling, forensic biology, criminal, disaster victim identification (DVI), genetics, paternity, kinship and parental DNA.

Image of Peter Gunn
Associate Professor, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Core Member, CFS - Centre for Forensic Science
B Sci (Hons), PhD
 
Phone
+61 2 9514 2873

Research Interests

Massively parallel sequencing

Forensic applications of molecular biology

Identification of huamn and non-human remains & body fluids

Can supervise: Yes

DNA Profiling

Investigation of Human Remains

Forensic Biology

Cell Biology & Genetics

Conferences

Gunn, P.R. 1989, 'Identity testing by dna profiling', Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, pp. 27-36.
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Journal articles

Wilson-Wilde, L., Yakovchyts, D., Neville, S., Maynard, P.J. & Gunn, P. 2016, 'Investigation into Ethylene Oxide Treatment and Residuals on DNA and Downstream DNA Analysis', Science and Justice.
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Recent years have seen a significant increase in the sensitivity of DNA testing, enabling the determination of DNA profiles from low levels of cellular material. However, the increased sensitivity is in many ways a double-edged sword as background contaminating DNA generated during the manufacture of consumables and sampling devices is now being detected and may compromise the interpretation of the DNA profile results. This study initially demonstrated the effectiveness of Ethylene Oxide (EO) as a post-production treatment to eliminate DNA on swabs, used as a sampling device for the recovery of cellular material. Subsequently, the potential adverse effects of any residual EO remaining on the swabs on the downstream DNA analysis on both rayon and cotton swabs were investigated and the levels of remaining EO measured. Two main variables were tested: the amount of time elapsed since EO treatment of the swabs prior to use, and the time elapsed between cellular material collection and DNA analysis. Residual levels of EO were found to be below quantitation levels and therefore also international standards. The results indicated that while there was a negligible effect of EO treatment on DNA recovered from rayon swabs, there was however an adverse effect on the DNA profiles recovered from cotton swabs. The adverse effect was negatively correlated with time since EO treatment and positively correlated with time to DNA analysis.
Gunn, P.R., Roux, C.P. & Walsh, S.J. 2014, 'The nucleic acid revolution continues will forensic biology become forensic molecular biology?', Frontiers in Genetics, vol. 5, no. 44, pp. 1-4.
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Molecular biology has evolved far beyond that which could have been predicted at the time DNA identity testing was established. Indeed we should now perhaps be referring to forensic molecular biology. Aside from DNAs established role in identifying the who in crime investigations, other developments in medical and developmental molecular biology are now ripe for application to forensic challenges. The impact of DNA methylation and other post-fertilization DNA modifications, plus the emerging role of small RNAs in the control of gene expression, is re-writing our understanding of human biology. It is apparent that these emerging technologies will expand forensic molecular biology to allow for inferences about when a crime took place and what took place. However, just as the introduction of DNA identity testing engendered many challenges, so the expansion of molecular biology into these domains will raise again the issues of scientific validity, interpretation, probative value, and infringement of personal liberties. This Commentary ponders some of these emerging issues, and presents some ideas on how they will affect the conduct of forensic molecular biology in the foreseeable future.
Gunn, P., Walsh, S. & Roux, C. 2014, 'The nucleic acid revolution continues - will forensic biology become forensic molecular biology?', Frontiers in genetics, vol. 5, p. 44.
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Molecular biology has evolved far beyond that which could have been predicted at the time DNA identity testing was established. Indeed we should now perhaps be referring to "forensic molecular biology." Aside from DNA's established role in identifying the "who" in crime investigations, other developments in medical and developmental molecular biology are now ripe for application to forensic challenges. The impact of DNA methylation and other post-fertilization DNA modifications, plus the emerging role of small RNAs in the control of gene expression, is re-writing our understanding of human biology. It is apparent that these emerging technologies will expand forensic molecular biology to allow for inferences about "when" a crime took place and "what" took place. However, just as the introduction of DNA identity testing engendered many challenges, so the expansion of molecular biology into these domains will raise again the issues of scientific validity, interpretation, probative value, and infringement of personal liberties. This Commentary ponders some of these emerging issues, and presents some ideas on how they will affect the conduct of forensic molecular biology in the foreseeable future.
Raymond, J., Van Oorschot, R., Walsh, S.J., Gunn, P.R. & Roux, C.P. 2011, 'How far have we come with trace DNA since 2004? The Australian and New Zealand experience', Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 231-244.
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In 2004, a survey was sent to forensic organisations in every jurisdiction in Australia and New Zealand, benchmarking practices in relation to trace DNA analysis. Concerning issues were identified such as a lack of standard training protocols, little ongoing training or proficiency testing, and poor information gathering and sharing. To assess the changes occurring in the five years since this survey, a follow-up was devised and distributed to the same organisations in early 2009. Seventy-seven surveys were received from persons active in the field of trace DNA including crime scene and laboratory personnel, and managers. The major difference noted between the two surveys was the implementation of new technologies, primarily robotic automation and subsequent changes in extraction methodology. Disappointingly, training, research and proficiency test levels were still found to be lacking, a concern given the findings of recent international forensic reviews. A major deficiency still noted from the 2004 survey was the absence of effective data management systems, indicating that the wider intelligence-led application of this evidence is not fully utilised. Reviewing the methods and processes of the dissemination of forensic data in the policing environment has the potential to broaden its application to crime prevention strategies
Raymond, J.J., Van Oorschot, R., Gunn, P.R., Walsh, S.J. & Roux, C.P. 2009, 'Trace evidence characteristics of DNA: A preliminary investigation of the persistence of DNA at crime scenes', Forensic Science International: Genetics, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 26-33.
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The successful recovery of trace or contact DNA is highly variable. It is seemingly dependent on a wide range of factors, from the characteristics of the donor, substrate and environment, to the delay between contact and recovery. There is limited research on the extent of the effect these factors have on trace DNA analysis. This study investigated the persistence of trace DNA on surfaces relevant to the investigation of burglary and robbery offences. The study aimed to limit the number of variables involved to solely determine the effect of time on DNA recovery. Given that it is difficult to control the quantity of DNA deposited during a hand contact, human buffy coat and DNA control solution were chosen as an alternative to give a more accurate measure of quantity. Set volumes of these solutions were deposited onto outdoor surfaces (window frames and vinyl material to mimic burglary and `bag snatch offences) and sterile glass slides stored in a closed environment in the laboratory, for use as a control. Trace DNA casework data was also scrutinised to assess the effect of time on DNA recovery from real samples. The amount of DNA recovered from buffy coat on the outdoor surfaces declined by approximately half over two weeks, to a negligible amount after six weeks. Profiles could not be obtained after two weeks. The samples stored in the laboratory were more robust, and full profiles were obtained after six weeks, the longest time period tested in these experiments. It is possible that profiles may be obtained from older samples when kept in similarly favourable conditions.
Raymond, J.J., Van Oorschot, R., Gunn, P.R., Walsh, S.J. & Roux, C.P. 2009, 'Trace DNA success rates relating to volume crime offences', Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 136-137.
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In this study, 252 trace DNA samples (from handled surfaces) from 201 burglary, robbery and drugs cases were compiled to assess success rates and to interpret the value of trace DNA evidence in volume crime investigations. The average amount of DNA recovered from the trace DNA samples collected was 1.7 ng. Full or major (12 or more alleles) profiles were recovered from 14% of samples. Samples from firearms and burglary points of entry were the least successful. Mixtures were recovered from 21% of samples, presenting a case for the collection of more elimination profiles to enable more samples to be used for database purposes. The research highlighted the difficulties in collecting data relating to the success rates of samples. Computerised automation of this process would be extremely beneficial in the assistance of policy development, method application, training, and investigative usefulness.
Raymond, J.J., Van Oorschot, R., Walsh, S.J., Roux, C.P. & Gunn, P.R. 2009, 'Trace DNA and street robbery: A criminalistic approach to DNA evidence', Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 544-546.
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It is now routine to detect trace DNA from handled objects, and with such low quantities of DNA the principles of criminalistics are now more relevant to biological evidence. This study aimed to provide data into the abundance, transfer and persistence of trace DNA, in a particular crime scenariostreet robbery. Items commonly stolen during a robbery (handbags and wallets) were swabbed to determine the background levels of DNA present. The likelihood of DNA transferring onto wallets during and after a robbery was investigated, as was the amount of handling time needed for the offender's DNA to become a major component in the recovered profile. A significant amount of DNA was recovered from wallets and bags in regular use, including small amounts of non-owner DNA. This indicates that background DNA may interfere with the recovery of offenders DNA. Profiles recovered from wallets stolen in a simulated robbery were in the majority mixtures, however the robber was a major component of the mixture or a single source profile in 40% of the profiles. The findings demonstrate that background data on the trace evidence characteristics of DNA will aid its interpretation and presentation in criminal trials.
Raymond, J.J., Walsh, S.J., Van Oorschot, R., Gunn, P.R., Evans, L. & Roux, C.P. 2008, 'Assessing trace DNA evidence from a residential burglary: abundance, transfer and persistence', Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 442-443.
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Raymond, J.J., Walsh, S.J., Van Oorschot, R., Gunn, P.R. & Roux, C.P. 2004, 'Trace DNA: an underutilised resource or Pandora's Box? A review of the use of trace DNA analysis in the investigation of volume crime', Journal of Forensic Identification, vol. 54, no. 6, pp. 668-686.
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Spectacular advanctes in DNA technology have greatly expanded its applicability to forensic science. As the processes become sufficiently sensitive to detect trace DNA, a vast number of crime scene samples not previously considered for analysis are now able to be tested. However, in spite of these obvious benefits, trace DNA analysis raises problems not often considered by investigators and forensic scientists. This paper discusses the history and development of trace DNA analysis. It suggests a trend of underutilisation and discusses issues surrounding its application and alternative uses for the results gained. The approach in the past has been that DNA evidence was solely employed as an absolute form of evidence and consequently, research focused primarily on increasing sensitivity and discrimination power. We are suggesting that DNA evidence should be treated as any other trace evidence. Research to provide data for basic trace evidence properties of deposit, presence, transfer and persisitence may allow trace DNA analysis to be more effectivly utilised in the investigation of crime. Together with recent developments in forensic intelligence, this research could facilitate the progressive applications of trace DNA analysis to volume crime investigations, an outcome wuth the potential to reduce the rate of volume crime and contribute to crime prevention strategies.
Gunn, P.R., Trueman, K., Stapleton, P. & Klarkowski, D.B. 1997, 'DNA analysis in disputed parentage: The occurrence of two apparently false exclusions of paternity, both at short tandem repeat (STR) loci, in the one child', ELECTROPHORESIS, vol. 18, no. 9, pp. 1650-1652.
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Sudbury, A.W., Marinopoulos, J. & Gunn, P. 1993, 'Assessing the evidential value of DNA profiles matching without using the assumption of independent loci.', Journal - Forensic Science Society, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 73-82.
DNA profiling allows determination of the alleles at multiple loci on an individual's genome. The frequencies of these alleles are then estimated from a sample drawn from the population. If the occurrences of alleles at different loci are independent, the frequencies may be multiplied together to give an estimate of the probability of DNA from a randomly-chosen member of the population matching the DNA in question. However, there is doubt as to whether the assumption of independence can be justified. This paper discusses a method of calculating the probability of a match that does not require the assumption of independence. A suitable set of criteria is also derived that offer an objective approach to the determination of a match from two DNA samples.
Balazs, I., Neuweiler, J., Gunn, P., Kidd, J., Kidd, K.K., Kuhl, J. & Mingjun, L. 1992, 'Human population genetic studies using hypervariable loci. I. Analysis of Assamese, Australian, Cambodian, Caucasian, Chinese and Melanesian populations.', Genetics, vol. 131, no. 1, pp. 191-198.
Population genetic studies, in Australian, Assamese, Cambodian, Chinese, Caucasian and Melanesian populations, were performed with several highly polymorphic DNA loci. Results showed that the Caucasian and Chinese had the highest level of heterozygosity. The size range of the majority of the polymorphic DNA fragments of a locus was the same in the different populations. The distinguishing feature of each ethnic group was the relative frequency of a particular set or group of alleles. For example, alleles greater than 9.0 kb in size, in D14S13, or from 4.5 to 4.7 kb, in D18S27, were less than half as frequent in Caucasians than in the other populations. Overall, there were groups of alleles, at one or more loci, whose frequencies were different among some of the ethnic groups and therefore could be used to differentiate one group from the other.
POWELL, K.F.H., GUNN, P.R. & BELLAMY, A.R. 1988, 'NUCLEOTIDE-SEQUENCE OF BOVINE ROTAVIRUS GENOMIC SEGMENT-10 - AN RNA ENCODING THE VIRAL NONSTRUCTURAL GLYCOPROTEIN', NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 763-763.
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GUNN, P.R., SATO, F., POWELL, K.F.H., BELLAMY, A.R., NAPIER, J.R., HARDING, D.R.K., HANCOCK, W.S., SIEGMAN, L.J. & BOTH, G.W. 1985, 'ROTAVIRUS NEUTRALIZING PROTEIN-VP7 - ANTIGENIC DETERMINANTS INVESTIGATED BY SEQUENCE-ANALYSIS AND PEPTIDE-SYNTHESIS', JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY, vol. 54, no. 3, pp. 791-797.
GUNN, P.R. & EGAN, J.B. 1979, 'INVITRO SYNTHESIS OF THE STAPHYLOCOCCAL EXO-ENZYME PENICILLINASE', PROCEEDINGS OF THE AUSTRALIAN BIOCHEMICAL SOCIETY, vol. 12, pp. 106-106.
Selected Peer-Assessed Projects

NSW Police Force

Forensic & Analytical Science Services

VicPol

Australian Federal Police