A web-based service to simplify the process of checking paternity has been launched this month by Sunderland-based company Complement Genomics. Dadcheck.com aims to demystify the technology around DNA profiling and testing while at the same time providing a fast and accurate test to confirm the identity of a child's father.

Split into two sections — 'Is it me?' for men who want to find out if they are the father; and 'Is it him?' for women who want to confirm the identity of the father of their child — dadcheck.com promises to take a frank, friendly and plain-talking approach to paternity. The site claims to be completely confidential and offers a testing kit, advice on what to do next and organisations you can contact for support.

You can order the dadcheck test kit online or over the phone. The kit itself — which tests the DNA of the mother, child and alleged father — costs £468 including VAT, although if there is more than one possible father it will cost an extra £175 per suspect.

Using a 'buckle brush' (pictured), skin cell samples are taken from the inside of the cheek — a simple procedure that must be carried out by mother, child and potential father(s). These are then sent back to the lab and the results are returned within seven to 10 days.

The tests must adhere to the government code of practice and guidance on genetic paternity testing services, published by the Department of Health in March this year, if they are to be accepted as evidence of paternity in a court of law. However, the CSA (Child Support Agency) will normally meet the cost of DNA tests in disputes about maintenance payments, so it seems unlikely that the dadcheck testing kit will be used to settle these cases.

Dadcheck.com was devised by Dr Neil Sullivan of Complement Genomics, and he believes the site's simplified approach is something that will appeal to potential users. "Many people are put off by paternity test websites which are tricky to understand… dadcheck.com offers reassurance through plain speaking and a high level of scientific expertise," he says.

Compliment Genomics was set up in April 2000 by Dr Neil Sullivan and Louise Allcroft. Specialising in molecular biology, Dr Sullivan told PC Advisor that their goal is "to take genetics to the people".