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GATK and MuTect licensing moves to direct-through-Broad model

By Geraldine_VdAuwera

We have some important news to share with you regarding the licensing of GATK and MuTect. The licensing agreement between us and Appistry will end effective April 15, 2015; from that point on, the tools will continue to be licensed through Broad for commercial entities that will be running the GATK and MuTect internally or as part of their own hardware offering. Current licensed users will transition to Broad Institute when their current license expires.

For our academic and non-profit GATK and MuTect users, the licensing transition will be essentially transparent. You will still be able to use the GATK and MuTect for free, and access the source code through the existing public repository. The support forum and documentation website will also remain operational and freely accessible to all as they been previously.

Since our commercial users will now get their license --and their support!-- directly from Broad, they can expect to see some clear benefits:

  1. Better access.
    We have heard from our licensed user community that you would like greater access to the GATK support team. Licensing through Broad will remove intermediaries and allow all GATK and MuTect users --including those who purchase a license-- more direct contact with and support from our team.

  2. Most current tools.
    Getting your GATK license through Broad license will give you access to the most cutting-edge tools and features available without sacrificing support. Under Broad licensing, you will still have the option of purchasing a license for either of two packages, “GATK” or “GATK + Cancer Tools”.

  3. Up-to-date Best Practices recommendations.
    You will get our latest recommendations, informed by the latest in our internal analysis and internal R&D work, directly from us. So you can be confident that you have access to the freshest information at all times.

Our development team is driven by the goal of building tools to enable better science and push the boundaries of genome analysis. Revenue from GATK and MuTect licensing enables these goals by directly feeding into GATK and MuTect development, in the form of critical codebase maintenance and bug fixing work, as well as expansion of the support team. This enables us to keep pace with the growth of the user community and the ever-increasing demand for GATK and MuTect support.

This is a significant new milestone in the life of GATK and MuTect, and we recognize that there are going to be a lot of questions and discussions on this topic since it will affect many of you in the research community. We’ve put together some FAQs (below the fold) that we hope will answer your most pressing questions; feel free to comment and suggest additional points that you think should be covered there.

Note that we are still working on defining some of the finer points of the support model and pricing structure, so we can’t address those quite yet -- but feel free to email softwarelicensing@broadinstitute.org if you have some burning question and/or concern that you’d like to discuss regarding licensing and/or pricing in particular. Rest assured that once the model has been finalized, we will make the full details (including pricing) available on our website in order to ensure full transparency.


Frequently Asked Questions

Who is impacted by the licensing transition and how?

Academic/non-profit users: No change. The licensing terms remain the same and the GATK remains free to use for not-for-profit research and educational purposes. The current free user support model will remain available through the online forum.
Currently licensed Commercial/for-profit users: Appistry will continue to provide full GATK support for the remainder of your current license term. After that point, Broad Institute can offer you a GATK license directly. This will offer you immediate access to the latest version of GATK. We can work directly with you on your specific licensing questions at softwarelicensing@broadinstitute.org. For support questions, GATK product upgrade information or other suggestions, please comment in the discussion below or send us a private message.
Prospective commercial/for-profit users: Broad Institute can offer you a GATK license directly. This will offer you immediate access to the latest version of GATK. We can work directly with you on your specific licensing questions at softwarelicensing@broadinstitute.org. For support questions, GATK product upgrade information or other suggestions, please comment in the discussion below or send us a private message.

Will licensed users (commercial / for-profit) and non-licensed users (non-profit and academic) have access to different versions of GATK?

No. There will only be one version for all users. We will provide our licensed users total support for the very latest version. This means they will always be able to use the most cutting-edge tools and features available without sacrificing support.

Now that the Broad's licensing agreement with Appistry is ending, why not make GATK free for commercial users, just like it is for academic/non-profit users?

Part of the Broad Institute’s mission is to share our tools and research as broadly as possible to enable others to do transformational research. We started developing GATK several years ago and, since then, have constantly upgraded it, thanks to the hard work and dedication of many talented programmers, developers and genomic researchers in our group and beyond. That is why GATK remains the most advanced, accurate and reliable toolkit for variant discovery available anywhere (if we do say so ourselves). But please understand that building, maintaining, testing and constantly improving GATK is neither easy nor free. This is why we charge commercial users a licensing fee and funnel these resources back into upgrades of the tool itself – it allows us to continue to offer GATK for free to academic and non-profit organizations while ensuring it is always the best-of-the-best in an emerging and rapidly-changing field of research.

Will Broad offer only GATK as a licensed product or will there be an equivalent to the Cancer Genomics Analysis Suite offered by Appistry?

In addition to the GATK package, we will also offer a package that bundles GATK with MuTect and ContEst. That package will not include the SomaticIndelDetector, but a replacement for that functionality is in preparation.

A recent announcement indicated that Picard tools will be integrated into future versions of GATK. Does that mean tools that originated in Picard will be subject to the protected GATK license?

No. Tools originating from the Picard toolkit will remain free and fully open-source for everyone. We are preparing to integrate them into a part of GATK that will be under a BSD license.

Will researchers who develop and publish analysis pipelines involving GATK be allowed to bundle GATK in, e.g., any Docker images that they provide to the community?

We are preparing to enable this in order to facilitate sharing of scientific methods, but we need input from the community first. To that end, we’d like to invite researchers who are developing or have developed such pipeline images to contact us in order to discuss options. We are envisioning simple technical solutions to ensure that users of these images are made fully aware of their own legal responsibility relative to the GATK licensing status, in a way that minimizes the burden on the researchers who distribute them.