Andrea Ganna addressed his boss, Ben Neale, with a pitch in late spring 2017: He needed to analyze the genetics of sexuality. Neale hesitated. One of many high geneticists within the nation, Neale and his colleagues on the Broad Institute, had a decade earlier developed software program that made it a lot simpler for scientists to review the vast amounts of genetic data that had been starting to flood in. It was the sort of instrument that helped illuminate an individual’s threat of growing, say, heart disease, or diabetes. And now, as Ganna was proposing, the strategy might be utilized to the foundations of habits, persona, and other social traits that previously had been tough to review.
Ganna needed to pounce on a brand new alternative. An enormous assortment of rigorously cataloged genomes, called the UK Biobank, was about to change into out there to researchers. A scientist may apply after which achieve entry to knowledge from 500,000 British residents—the biggest public repository of DNA on the planet. To Ganna, the genetic origins of being homosexual or straight appeared just like the type of blockbuster query that may lastly get a solution from a knowledge set of this measurement.
Neale wasn’t so positive. As a homosexual man himself, he worried that such an analysis could possibly be misconstrued or wielded to advance hateful agendas. However, a greater understanding of how genetics influences identical-intercourse attraction might additionally assist destigmatize it.
Then Ganna talked about that one other group was already pursuing the query utilizing the UK Biobank: a geneticist named Brendan Zietsch, on the University of Queensland, and his colleagues. In 2008, Zietsch printed a study suggesting that the straight genes people shared with their homosexual twins made them extra profitable at heterosexual bedding companions. Now he was going to additionally take a look at this “fecundity hypothesis” with a way more highly effective information set. He’d additionally proposed investigating the genetic associations between sexual orientation and mental health. Pondering his lab might add expertise coupled with a warning to such a project, Neale agreed they need to attempt to staff up with Zietsch.