Efficient Exploration of Chemical Space with Docking and Deep-Learning

04 March 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


With the advent of make-on-demand commercial libraries, the number of purchasable compounds available for virtual screening and assay has grown explosively in recent years, with several libraries eclipsing one billion compounds. Today’s screening libraries are larger and more diverse, enabling discovery of more potent hit compounds and unlocking new areas of chemical space, represented by new core scaffolds. Applying physics-based in-silico screening methods in an exhaustive manner, where every molecule in the library must be enumerated and evaluated independently, is increasingly cost-prohibitive. Here, we introduce a protocol for machine learning-enhanced molecular docking based on active learning to dramatically increase throughput over traditional docking. We leverage a novel selection protocol that strikes a balance between two objectives: (1) Identifying the best scoring compounds and (2) exploring a large region of chemical space, demonstrating superior performance compared to a purely greedy approach. Together with automated redocking of the top compounds, this method captures nearly all the high scoring scaffolds in the library found by exhaustive docking. This protocol is applied to our recent virtual screening campaigns against the D4 and AMPC targets that produced dozens of highly potent, novel inhibitors, and a blinded test against the MT1 target. Our protocol recovers more than 80% of the experimentally confirmed hits with a 14-fold reduction in compute cost, and more than 90% of the hit scaffolds in the top 5% of model predictions, preserving the diversity of the experimentally confirmed hit compounds.


Docking approaches
Deep Learning Applications
active learning strategies
Chemical space
Chemical Diversity

Supplementary materials

docking active-learning SI


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.