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Hartwig Medical Foundation - Pipeline5

Pipeline5 (Pv5) is a processing and analysis pipeline for high-throughput DNA sequencing data used in Hartwig Medical Foundation's (HMF) patient processing and research. The goals of the project are to deliver best in class performance and scalability using the Google Cloud Platform

Overview of Pipeline Stages

The pipeline first runs primary and secondary analysis on a reference (blood/normal) sample and tumor sample before comparing them in the final somatic pipeline. The GATK Haplotype caller is the final step of the single sample pipeline. Somatic pipelines continue with the tertiary analysis that is briefly described below.


Under normal circumstances Pv5 starts with the input of one to n paired-end FASTQ files produced by a sequencing machine. The first task of the pipeline is to align these reads to the human reference genome (using the BWA algorithm). We use the largest core counts available and parallelise by sample (tumor/normal) and lane within each sample to achieve reasonable performance.

Mark duplicates and sorting is performed after the per lane alignments with Sambamba.

WGS Metrics

Various WGS metrics are collected via Picard tools for ad-hoc analysis and evaluation of automated QC in Health Checker

Samtools Flagstat

Samtools flag statistics are not consumed by any downstream stages, but useful in ad hoc QC and analysis.

SnpGenotype (GATK UnifiedGenotyper)

GATK's UnifiedGenotyper is used to call in 26 specific locations. The results are compared with a similar but separate DNA assay in Hartwig lab to rule out sample swaps.

Germline Calling (GATK HaplotypeCaller)

GATK's HaplotypeCaller is used to call germline variants on the reference sample only. These calls are not used in downstream algorithms but are the only genome-wide germline calls.


Amber is an HMF in-house tool used to determine the minor allele copy number of heterozygous germline variants in the tumor sample.


Cobalt is an HMF in-house tool used to determine read depth ratios.

Somatic Variant Calling (SAGE)

SAGE is an HMF in-house tool used to call somatic variants (MNVs, SNVs and Indels) between the tumor/reference pair.

Germline Variant Calling (SAGE)

SAGE Germline is an HMF in-house tool used to call germline variants (MNVs, SNVs and Indels) in the reference sample. SAGE germline annotates all germline variants with their status in the tumor sample.

Structural Variant Calling (GRIDSS)

GRIDSS is used to call structural variants between the tumor/reference pair.

Structural Variant Filtering (GRIPSS)

GRIPSS is an HMF in-house tool used to extract the somatic variants from the full structural variant call set from GRIDSS and remove all low quality calls.


Purple is an HMF in-house tool which combines the read-depth ratios from Cobalt, BAFs from Amber, and structural/somatic variants to produce a comprehensive tumor analysis regarding purity, ploidy, drivers and annotated variants.


Linx is an HMF in-house tool which interprets structural variants from Purple and calls fusions and homozygously disrupted genes.


PEACH is an HMF in-house tool which matches SAGE germline calls with pharmacogenetic evidence.


VIRUSBreakend is a module within GRIDSS that is used to determine viral presence in the tumor sample.


Cuppa is an HMF in-house tool which tries to predict the primary tumor location based on the LINX and Purple results.


CHORD is an external tool which evaluates whether the tumor is HR-deficient based on the complete set of variants found.


PROTECT is an HMF in-house tool which annotates all drivers with their clinical relevance and decides on treatment and trial eligibility.

Health Checker

Health Checker is an HMF in-house doing a final QC based off the purple results and WGS metrics.

Developers Guide

Building and Testing Pipeline 5

The first (and least-obvious) thing to do is make sure you've got your gcloud and gsutil installation done and then run:

gcloud auth application-default login

This is REQUIRED to build the pipeline since the private Maven repository is hosted in GCP and the plugin behaves as an application rather than using your user credentials. If you fail to do this you'll get an error relating to an "Anonymous caller" from Google storage.

Pv5 is a Java application and builds with Maven. It is compatible with all builds of Java 11 and Maven 3.

To build the application and run all the tests:

mvn clean package

GIT and Pull Requests

We use PRs to implement a pre-commit review process, not for long-lived feature branches. When working on a ticket for which you wish to have reviewed before ending up in production:

  • Create a ticket for your work in JIRA
  • Create a branch matching the name of the ticket.
  • Do some cool stuff
  • Push your new branch, making sure to expose it remotely
  • GitHub should detect your push to a branch and show you a button to create a PR at the top of the repo.
  • Assign a reviewer to your new PR.
  • Address any comments, then merge

Small changes do not need to follow this process, it is meant to help and not hinder productivity. Use your best judgement.

All changes should be committed with quality commit messages, as this is a main source of documentation. Please read the 7 rules and follow them.


After each push our CI build runs on Google's Cloud Build in our development project. In addition to the tests you might run locally the CI build also:

  • Runs the "smoke" test which checks the output of the full pipeline run against expectations
  • Pushes a Docker image which can be used to run the pipeline in Kubernetes as we do in production

Running Locally

Pv5 can be run locally, we include some sample configurations in .run which Intellij should pick up automatically. Open those from Edit Configurations... under the Run menu and amend as needed. If significant changes are needed to get the application running then commit those back to the repo.

Disk Images

Pv5 uses a custom disk image to launch the VMs that implement the stages it runs. When components are upgraded or if resources change a new image must be created, by the developer. See cluster/images/ for specifics.