The Atlantic

The 'Genome Hacker' Who Mapped a 13-Million-Person Family Tree

Huge crowdsourced genealogy databases are inspiring new genetics research.
Source: Yaniv Erlich / The Atlantic

Yaniv Erlich has been a white-hat hacker and a geneticist at Columbia University, and now he works for a genealogy company.

This unusual career trajectory has led, most recently, to a 13-million-person family tree unveiled today in Science.

The massive trove of data comes from public profiles on the crowdsourced genealogy website Geni.com, and it sheds light on human longevity and dispersal over time. (I wrote about a preprint of this paper last year.) But most of all, Erlich is excited about overlaying DNA information on top of family trees to study genes implicated in disease.

MyHeritage, the company behind Geni.com, also sells DNA ancestry tests. And since 2017, Erlich has been on leave from Columbia working as MyHeritage’s chief scientific officer to develop those DNA tests.

If that sounds like a lot of datadubbed him the “.”

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