Yaniv Erlich

Computational geneticist
Yaniv Erlich is fascinated by the connection between DNA and data.

Why you should listen

As a professor and researcher at Columbia University and as CSO of MyHeritage.com, Yaniv Erlich has performed foundational work in genetic privacy and large-scale studies of crowdsourced genomic data. Dubbed a "genome hacker" by the journal Nature, Erlich and his team discovered a privacy loophole enabling reidentification of allegedly anonymous male research participants using just internet searches and their Y chromosome. Later, he discovered that 60 percent of all US individuals with European descent can be identified by forensic genetics using open genetic genealogy databases, which Science magazine called one of the top 10 breakthroughs of 2018.

Erlich is also responsible for the construction of the world's largest family tree, comprising 13 million people, as well as the development of the website DNA.land, which has compiled the genotypes of more than 150,000 donors. He has also worked to discover the genetic bases for several conditions in Israeli families. His team has demonstrated stable DNA data storage, reaching a density of 215 petabyte per gram of DNA. He's been awarded numerous prizes, has published more than 45 papers and authored seven patents.

Yaniv Erlich’s TED talk