Background: Benchmarking the performance of complex analytical pipelines is an essential part of developing Lab Developed Tests (LDT). Reference samples and benchmark calls published by Genome in a Bottle (GIAB) consortium have enabled the evaluation of analytical methods. The performance of such methods is not uniform across the different genomic regions of interest and variant types. Several benchmarking methods such as hap.py, vcfeval, and vcflib are available to assess the analytical performance characteristics of variant calling algorithms. However, assessing the performance characteristics of an overall LDT assay still requires stringing together several such methods and experienced bioinformaticians to interpret the results. In addition, these methods are dependent on the hardware, operating system and other software libraries, making it impossible to reliably repeat the analytical assessment, when any of the underlying dependencies change in the assay. Here we present a scalable and reproducible, cloud-based benchmarking workflow that is independent of the laboratory and the technician executing the workflow, or the underlying compute hardware used to rapidly and continually assess the performance of LDT assays, across their regions of interest and reportable range, using a broad set of benchmarking samples.
Results: The benchmarking workflow was used to evaluate the performance characteristics for secondary analysis pipelines commonly used by Clinical Genomics laboratories in their LDT assays such as the GATK HaplotypeCaller v3.7 and the SpeedSeq workflow based on FreeBayes v0.9.10. Five reference sample truth sets generated by Genome in a Bottle (GIAB) consortium, six samples from the Personal Genome Project (PGP) and several samples with validated clinically relevant variants from the Centers for Disease Control were used in this work. The performance characteristics were evaluated and compared for multiple reportable ranges, such as whole exome and the clinical exome.
Conclusions: We have implemented a benchmarking workflow for clinical diagnostic laboratories that generates metrics such as specificity, precision and sensitivity for germline SNPs and InDels within a reportable range using whole exome or genome sequencing data. Combining these benchmarking results with validation using known variants of clinical significance in publicly available cell lines, we were able to establish the performance of variant calling pipelines in a clinical setting.
Keywords: Benchmarking; Docker; GIAB reference genomes; Germline variants; Lab developed tests; Precision; Recall; Truth set; Workflow.