Paul B. Ferrara, Pioneer of DNA and Virginia's DNA Database, Dies at 68
Filed under Testing on 6/1/2011 by Author: .

Paul B. Ferrara Ph.D. was the former Director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and helped pioneer the use of DNA fingerprinting as an essential crime-fighting tool in the U.S. Dr. Ferrara passed away on Monday, May 30, of complications of brain cancer at his home in Chesterfield County in Virginia.
He retired at the end of 2006 after 21 years as director of the Virginia State Department of Forensic Science, where he was credited with recognizing the forensic potential of DNA and then winning the resources to exploit it.

He began his career in 1971 and held doctoral degrees from Syracuse University and the State University of New York. He was a distinguished professor of forensic science at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Dr. Ferrara fought to obtain about $300,000 from the state and, in March 1989, Virginia opened the first state DNA laboratory capable of performing DNA fingerprinting. That same year Virginia's forensics laboratory also became the first in the U.S. to create a DNA database of previously convicted sex offenders. In 1992, Virginia became a pilot state for a national DNA database.

A "cold hit," or match, from the Virginia DNA database resulted in a first conviction in 1994. The forensic laboratory's work, in addition to catching many criminals, has also cleared people wrongly convicted of crimes.
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