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Disruptive solution for sexual criminal identification

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Themis (Disruptive solution for sexual criminal identification)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-06-30

Rape is a global scourge and, unlike blood, no efficient solution is offered today to Crime Scene Technicians (CST) and forensic pathologists to find sperm traces directly on the scene and on victims’ body. About 65% of reported rape cases remain unpunished and sexual predators -most of the time repeat offenders- run free.
AXO Science has demonstrated a new product proof of concept: STK Spray, a revealing semen-specific reagent with broad detection capacity of sperm traces on any floor, grass, wall, object, skin, hair…). It preserves DNA for further identification in the laboratory. Formulated in a convenient format, where dry powder is simply dissolved in water, product is rapidly ready-to-spray and easy to carry. After a few sprays, STK Spray will make semen traces in a bright blue colour. Only human male semen is revealed, providing only qualified sample. No false positive and no evidence left being because of inefficient Alternate Light Source, a premiere.
With this project, AXO Science will prepare market introduction for this disruptive solution. STK Spray is a game-changer and will revolutionise CST toolbox and the way rape investigation are being handled by Police forces. Disruption lies in the dramatic acceleration of procedures – both police and justice – and the increased number of traces found (100% versus 10% currently). It will thus drastically increase the number of solved cases (+30%).
AXO Science will bring its technology outside laboratories, to the very hands of crime technicians on site. More than a leading product, AXO Science wants to push the use of STK as a reflex for any Forensic Expert who faces potential presence of sperm traces whatever the location or surface.
Scaling-up the technology will enable a massive use of our products worldwide. This new scene screening product is also a perfect match with AXO Science’s current forensic product portfolio, creating a one-stop-shop for CST worldwide.
Within 2 years AXO Science will almost double its original size both with regards to human resources and product portfolio. By 2022, the company will mutate from a small R&D SME to a proper business start-up with hyper growth perspectives, knocking at global markets’ doors. Following 3 years will be dedicated to building the world first reference for biological traces search on every crime scene in the world.
Overall objectives are to demonstrate and validate STK Spray performances in operational environment and to accelerate the time to market.
During this first 12 months period, AXO Science has structured its work force and competences to be able to reach its targets and objectives. In the context of Covid-19 pandemic, management has played a crucial role to limit crisis negative impact. Besides the recruitment of an American based forensic expert was done to promote STK Spray solution in North America.
AXO Science Ethic Committee was created in order to validate procedures for volunteer recruitment and data treatment. Regulation was studied to ensure that procedures were compliant with the laws. Regarding norms, focus on maintaining the ISO 9001 (quality management system; QSM) standards and implement ISO 18385 (DNA free contamination) was done. Also regular reviews were performed to monitor evolution of risks.
Regarding product development, great effort was made on performance characterisation. Performance evaluation, including sensibility, specificity over a wide material range, as well as compatibility with other forensics products was performed. Correlation between quantity and quality of human DNA recovered has been shown. Based on the first positive results, a patent deposition was made to protect our innovation.
Evaluation of technical materials (forensic lamps) to be used with STK Spray was launched in order to be able to recommend best UV lamp for STK Spray to end-users. More than 15 commercial UV lamps were tested in combination with STK Spray. On field testing with selected portable UV lamps was performed showing usage in a close-to-real environment. A complete stability study was launched, including storage and packaging effects on product performances. Additionally, a specific study has started in order to create our own specific UV lamp.
STK Skin has been developed for usage on non-deceased victims, over skin and hair. Regulation report for STK Skin, defining the applicable regulation and tests to be produced for a skin contact use was achieved. The capacity to localize semen stain and to recover male DNA over the skin of a victim was successfully demonstrated. This product will be addressed to forensic examiners.
Based on these positive results, transfer to industrialisation was initiated. In an effort to modernise and secure current infrastructures and to scale-up production, implementation of tools and infrastructures for clean room and human DNA free environment was achieved. Complete facilities validation for ISO 18385 is still ongoing. Production and qualification workflow is now ready for scale-up evaluation.
Worldwide communication effort was started over the last year despite international lockdown. Due to pandemic, several exhibitions were just virtual instead of real meetings. We participated to the AAFS - American Academy of Forensic; HIDS - Human Identification Solutions Conference; IALM – International Association of Legal Medicine. We have registered and will participate to coming congresses.
More than 60 worldwide KOLs were identified and directly contacted to exchange about STK Spray and Skin innovation. We received enough feedback on STK Spray to start crafting arguments to present and promote our Sperm Tracker products on a dedicated merchant website. A first version of the official documentation has been produced. Pricing strategy was started.
STK Spray product is a semen detection technique, simple to use, with an increased sensitivity and specificity compared to existing methods. Its use will revolutionize screening processes in every sexual aggression cases. Current forensic organisations have major drawbacks in fighting rapes that STK Spray will drastically improve. We anticipate an increase of 40% of the investigation success rate. It will have a huge impact on society and sexual violence occurrence. Potential impact over society is huge. Sexual aggressions have enormous direct and indirect costs over victims and society; their reduction is definitely a target in our modern society.
On a business, estimated number of customers for STK Skin, in western countries, is 650 entities and 6 700 forensic physicians performing 115 000 analysis related to rape each year.
AXO Science anticipates to capture a global market share of 23% in 2025 of the global semen screening market. Among STK Spray sales, STK Skin shall represent 16% of sales.
In 2022, after three years of marketing activities across the world, the product will really take off and expand on new markets. Company turnover and profits will see a huge step up and then investments will have to take place.
As we will grow, efficiency and productivity will be improved, thanks to employee stronger experience and the use of production line to its full potential. We will see the same positive effects within the negotiation with raw materials suppliers, since higher quantities will make the unit price cheaper. These parameters will automatically reduce fix costs and mechanically increase margins on the product and widespread its use.
Sperm stain revelation by forensics thanks to STK spray