Retrieving Data

🤓 The ultimate guide for data analysts using Isabl!

Introduction to Filters

Filters enable you to subset the data of your interest. For example you can use filters to retrieve all the BAM files of a given project, or get all VCFs from a given variant calling application. Filters are field-value pairs and can be used both in the Command Line and within Python. Check out this examples:

# A request to the API
curl http://{my-isabl-instance}/api/v1/experiments?sample__identifier={the-sample-id}
# Using Isabl CLI
isabl get-outdirs -fi BWA_MEM -fi status SUCCEEDED
# Using Isabl SDK
import isabl_cli as ii
samples = ii.get_instances('samples', individual__species="HUMAN")

Note that fields can traverse the relational model. To do so concatenate the fields with __ (e.g. samples__disease__acronym=AML, or a dot in the Command Line

Filters Modifiers

As indicated in the previous hint, filter fields can traverse database relationships. However, all filters can be augmented using lookups:


Here is a quick representation of Isabl's relational model, hence related filters:

To get a full description of all available filters please visit Isabl's Redoc API documentation at or (replacing with your own host). Another useful way to explore the relational model is by using isabl get-metadata.

Common Filters

Here are some common and useful filters for Isabl.

Limit vs Count Limit

The filter count_limit enables you to limit the total number of instances that will be retrieved. For example to get the output directory for the first 10 successful analyses you could do:

isabl get-outdirs -fi status SUCCEEDED -fi count_limit 10

On the other side, limit will determine how many instances should be retrieved at the same time. For example, the following command would retrieve paths to all successful analyses in batches of 10000:

isabl get-outdirs -fi status SUCCEEDED -fi limit 100000

Has BAM File

To get for example all experiments that have a BAM file for GRCh37 you could do:

experiments = ii.experiments(has_bam_for="GRCh37")

Performance Filters

The following filters can be used to (quite dramatically) improve the performance for some queries:





If you set distinct to false, the each result within the query won't be guaranteed to be unique, yet the response will be faster.



By activating the cursor pagination, you would be able to traverse queries results, but you won't know the total number of results.


paginator=cursor is still experimental, please report an issue if you have trouble.

Isabl Command Line Client

Filters in the command line are usually provided using the -fi or --filters flags. Relations or lookups can be provided using double underscores or dots (e.g. or application__name). Here is a list of Isabl commands available to retrieve information:





Get count of database instances given a particular query. For example, how many failed analyses are in the system?

isabl get-count analyses -fi status FAILED


Retrieve instances metadata in multiple formats. To limit the number of fields you are interested in use -f (i.e. --fields).

isabl get-metadata samples -fi category TUMOR -f disease


This command will retrieved the raw data linked to experiments as imported in Isabl (e.g. BAM, FASTQ, CRAM). Use --verbose to see what experiments have missing data.

isabl get-data -fi 102,103


Get the official bam registered for a given list of experiments. Use --assemblyif there are BAMs available for different versions of the genome. Use has_bam_for to filter those experiments with a registered BAM.

isabl get-bams -fi has_bam_for GRCh37


Isabl supports the linkage of auxiliary resources to the assembly instances. By defaultget-reference gives you the path to the reference FASTA, however you can retrieve other linked resources.

isabl get-reference GRCh37


Retrieve a BED file linked to a particular sequencing technique. By default, the targets BED file is returned, to get the baits BED use --bed-type.

isabl get-bed HEMEPACT --assembly GRCh37


Retrieve the storage directory for any instance in the database. Use --pattern to retrieve files within those directories.

isabl get-paths projects 102


This command is a short cut of isabl get-paths analyses. Learn more about retrieving results here.

isabl get-outdirs -fi name PINDEL -fi status SUCCEEDED


Retrieve analyses results produced by applications. Use --app-resultsto list all available choices for a given application.

isabl get-results -fi 1 -r command_script

Dynamically Explore Metadata

Another useful way to explore the relational model is by using isabl get-metadata:

isabl get-metadata experiments --fx

Expand and navigate with arrow keys, press e to expand all and E to minimize. Learn more at fx documentation. Use --help to learn about other ways to visualize metadata (e.g. tsv).

Furthermore, you can limit the amount of information you are retrieving by passing the list of fields you are interested in:

isabl get-metadata analyses -f -f status

Assembly Resources

By default, the command get-reference helps you retrieve the assembly reference genome.

isabl get-reference GRCh37    # retrieve reference genome

However, by means of the --data-id flag, the command get-reference also allows you to retrieve the indexes generated during import. To get a list of available files per assembly use --resources:

$ isabl get-reference GRCh37 --resources

    genome_fasta         Reference Genome Fasta File.
    genome_fasta_fai     Index generated by: samtools faidx

Then get the one you are interested in with:

isabl get-reference GRCh37 --data-id genome_fasta_fai

Retrieving Application Results

You can use get-outdirs within the command line to systematically explore output directories. For example:

isabl get-outdirs -fi status FAILED | xargs tree -L 2

Further more you can retrieve files within those directories by using --pattern:

isabl get-outdirs -fi status FAILED --pattern 'head_job.*'

Additionally, you can retrieve results directly registered by the application:

for i in `isabl get-results -fi status FAILED -r command_err`; do
   echo exploring $i;
   cat $i;

To visualize what results are available for a given application run:

isabl get-results --app-results <application primary key>

You can retrieve the application primary key from the front end.

Isabl Software Development Kit

Importantly, isabl-cli can also be used as a Software Development Kit within python:

Try from an ipython session
import isabl_cli as ii  # ii stands for `interactive isabl` 😎

If you are using ipython, use ? to get help on a method (e.g. ii.get_instances?)

Getting Instances

To get started, we can retrieve specific instances from the database:

# retrieve an experiment with a system id (primary keys also work)
experiment = ii.Experiment("DEM_10000_T01_01_TD1")

# we can also get an analysis using it's primary key (we'll limit retrieved fields)
analysis = ii.Analysis(10235, fields="status,application")

# same thing for assemblies
assembly = ii.Assembly("GRCh37")

These instances are Munch, in other words they are dot-dicts (like javascript). So you can do both analysis["status"] or analysis.status.

A more general way to retrieve any object in the database is using get_instance:

project = ii.get_instance("projects", 100)  # the signature is (endpoint, identifier)

Some examples of things you can do with these instances:

# get the target experiment or tumor
target = analysis.targets[0]

# print the experiment sample class

# see available analysis fields

# see all available data

To get multiple instances you can do:

# get all TUMOR experiments in project 102
experiments = ii.get_experiments(projects=102, sample__category="TUMOR")

# get the first 10 SUCCEEDED analyses in the same project
analyses = ii.get_experiments(projects=102, status="SUCCEEDED", count_limit=10)

# get all the projects where I'm the owner
projects = ii.get_projects(owner__startswith="besuhof")

Similarly to isabl get-count , you can determine the number of available results for a given query:

ii.get_instances_count("analyses", status="FAILED")

Getting all Samples from an Individual

To retrieve all samples and experiments for a given individual:

# you can also use the individual system_id
individual = ii.get_tree(10000)

# them all samples are available at
samples = individual.sample_set

# and all experiments for a given sample
experiments = samples[0].experiment_set

You can also retrieve multiple trees:

individuals = ii.get_trees(projects=267)

Create, Delete, and Modify Instances

If you have permissions, you will be able to systematically alter instances in the database:

# create a disease
ii.create_instance("diseases", name="Osteosarcoma", acrynom="OS")

# update an individual's gender
ii.patch_instance(, gender="UNKNOWN")

# delete an analysis

With great power, comes... yeah you know how it goes. Just be careful.

Isabl SDK Utils

Here are other useful utilities available in isabl-cli:




Given a list of elements, return a list of chunks of n elements from the original list.


Perform an authenticated request to Isabl API.


Retry an HTTP request multiple times with a delay between each failure.

Isabl Web

Isabl Web is a great tool to retrieve information and understand the state of affairs within the system. Simply type something in the search bar to retrieve instances across multiple schemas:

Multiple panels will be stacked horizontally as you request more information:

Projects Detail Panel

The projects detail panel conveys all assets and stakeholders linked to a particular project:

Live Tables are directly wired to the API and will enable you to search and filter on specific columns. For the later, simply click in the column name:

The Samples View

The samples tree panel provides access to all assets generated on a given individual.

By clicking on a given node in the tree, you can retrieve more metadata, filter out available analyses on that instance, and even get access to BAM files:

Analyses Results

We can retrieve different types of results for all analyses generated by Isabl. For example accessing a project level quality control report:

Similarly we can retrieve other types of results such as a VCF:

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