Link: Interview with Yaniv Erlich and massive human genealogy

1 minute read

The Atlantic has a nice interview with Yaniv Erlich, the geneticist who this week revealed the largest scientific analysis of a single human genealogical tree, including some 13 million people: “The ‘Genome Hacker’ Who Mapped a 13-Million-Person Family Tree”.

The interview is by reporter Sarah Zhang, and she focuses on the effective collaboration of private and university interests in this kind of research.

Zhang: Your study is published now, but it seems like this is a beginning rather than an end. I’d imagine what you’re really interested in is overlaying genetic data on top of the family tree.
Erlich: Exactly. At MyHeritage, we started to offer DNA tests to users in November 2016. Since then we’ve collected 1.2 million DNA profiles of users.
Zhang: And why make the jump to MyHeritage? Are there things you can do at a company you couldn’t do in academia?
Erlich: I think this is a model for the future. There are certain things that you can only do in academia. There are certain things you can only do in companies. If you want to move in scientific endeavors, collaborating with companies is a very fruitful direction.

The research involving the genealogical data has documented the genealogical effects of some interesting social changes over the last two hundred years. But once genetics starts to be added into the tree, people are going to find a lot of discordance, a lot of natural selection, and possibly a good amount of segregation distortion.

It will be interesting to shine a light into odd corners of inheritance. I’m not sure people are anticipating what discoveries will be made using their own genealogical research.