The amount of data available on chemical structures and their properties has increased exponentially over the past decades. In particular, articles published before the mid-1990 are available only in printed or scanned form. The extraction and storage of data from those articles in a publicly accessible database are desirable, but doing this manually is a slow and error-prone process. In order to extract chemical structure depictions and convert them into a computer-readable format, optical chemical structure recognition (OCSR) tools were developed where the best performing OCSR tools are mostly rule-based.
The DECIMER (Deep lEarning for Chemical ImagE Recognition) project was launched to address the OCSR problem with the latest computational intelligence methods to provide an automated open-source software solution. Various current deep learning approaches were explored to seek a best-fitting solution to the problem. In a preliminary communication, we outlined the prospect of being able to predict SMILES encodings of chemical structure depictions with about 90% accuracy using a dataset of 50-100 million molecules. In this article, the new DECIMER model is presented, a transformer-based network, which can predict SMILES with above 96% accuracy from depictions of chemical structures without stereochemical information and above 89% accuracy for depictions with stereochemical information.