Do Large Scale Molecular Language Representations Capture Important Structural Information?

06/17/2021 ∙ by Jerret Ross, et al. ∙ 9

Predicting chemical properties from the structure of a molecule is of great importance in many applications including drug discovery and material design. Machine learning based molecular property prediction holds the promise of enabling accurate predictions at much less complexity, when compared to, for example Density Functional Theory (DFT) calculations. Features extracted from molecular graphs, using graph neural nets in a supervised manner, have emerged as strong baselines for such tasks. However, the vast chemical space together with the limited availability of labels makes supervised learning challenging, calling for learning a general-purpose molecular representation. Recently, pre-trained transformer-based language models (PTLMs) on large unlabeled corpus have produced state-of-the-art results in many downstream natural language processing tasks. Inspired by this development, here we present molecular embeddings obtained by training an efficient transformer encoder model, referred to as MoLFormer. This model was employed with a linear attention mechanism and highly paralleized training on 1D SMILES sequences of 1.1 billion unlabeled molecules from the PubChem and ZINC datasets. Experiments show that the learned molecular representation performs competitively, when compared to existing graph-based and fingerprint-based supervised learning baselines, on the challenging tasks of predicting properties of QM8 and QM9 molecules. Further task-specific fine-tuning of the MoLFormerr representation improves performance on several of those property prediction benchmarks. These results provide encouraging evidence that large-scale molecular language models can capture sufficient structural information to be able to accurately predict quantum chemical properties and beyond.

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