Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have made impactful discoveries for complex diseases, often by amassing very large sample sizes. Yet, GWAS of many diseases remain underpowered, especially for non-European ancestries. One cost-effective approach to increase sample size is to combine existing cohorts, which may have limited sample size or be case-only, with public controls, but this approach is limited by the need for a large overlap in variants across genotyping arrays and the scarcity of non-European controls. We developed and validated a protocol, Genotyping Array-WGS Merge (GAWMerge), for combining genotypes from arrays and whole-genome sequencing, ensuring complete variant overlap, and allowing for diverse samples like Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine to be used. Our protocol involves phasing, imputation, and filtering. We illustrated its ability to control technology driven artifacts and type-I error, as well as recover known disease-associated signals across technologies, independent datasets, and ancestries in smoking-related cohorts. GAWMerge enables genetic studies to leverage existing cohorts to validly increase sample size and enhance discovery for understudied traits and ancestries.
GAWMerge expands GWAS sample size and diversity by combining array-based genotyping and whole-genome sequencing.