With the profusion of chemical information on the web – in the form of chemical names, images of structures, specific codes (InChI etc), it’s sometimes very useful to be able to seamlessly retrieve some extra information while browsing a page that contains such entities. The usual way is to copy the InChI/SMILES/CAS/name string and paste into Pubchem, Chemspider and so on.
However, a much smoother way is now available via a Firefox extension, called NCATSFind, developed by my colleague. It’s a one click install and once installed, automatically identifies a variety of chemical id codes (CAS number, InChI, UNII) and when such entities are identified uses a variety of backend services to provide context. In addition, it has a cool feature that lets you select an image and generate a structure (using OSRA in the background).
Check out his blog post for more details.
Applications Invited for CSA Trust Grants for 2014.
The Chemical Structure Association (CSA) Trust is an internationally recognized organization established to promote the critical importance of chemical information to advances in chemical research. In support of its charter, the Trust has created a unique Grant Program and is currently inviting the submission of grant applications for 2014.
Purpose of the Grants:
The Grant Program has been created to provide funding for the career development of young researchers who have demonstrated excellence in their education, research or development activities that are related to the systems and methods used to store, process and retrieve information about chemical structures, reactions and compounds. One or more Grants will be awarded annually up to a total combined maximum of ten thousand U.S. dollars ($10,000). Grants are awarded for specific purposes, and within one year each grantee is required to submit a brief written report detailing how the grant funds were allocated. Grantees are also requested to recognize the support of the Trust in any paper or presentation that is given as a result of that support.
Who is Eligible?
Applicant(s), age 35 or younger, who have demonstrated excellence in their chemical information related research and who are developing careers that have the potential to have a positive impact on the utility of chemical information relevant to chemical structures, reactions and compounds, are invited to submit applications. While the primary focus of the Grant Program is the career development of young researchers, additional bursaries may be made available at the discretion of the Trust. All requests must follow the application procedures noted below and will be weighed against the same criteria.
Which Activities are Eligible?
Grants may be awarded to acquire the experience and education necessary to support research activities; e.g. for travel to collaborate with research groups, to attend a conference relevant to one’s area of research, to gain access to special computational facilities, or to acquire unique research techniques in support of one’s research
Applications must include the following documentation:
- A letter that details the work upon which the Grant application is to be evaluated as well as details on research recently completed by the applicant;
- The amount of Grant funds being requested and the details regarding the purpose for which the Grant will be used (e.g. cost of equipment, travel expenses if the request is for financial support of meeting attendance, etc.). The relevance of the above-stated purpose to the Trust’s objectives and the clarity of this statement are essential in the evaluation of the application);
- A brief biographical sketch, including a statement of academic qualifications;
- Two reference letters in support of the application. Additional materials may be supplied at the discretion of the applicant only if relevant to the application and if such materials provide information not already included in items 1-4. Three copies of the complete application document must be supplied for distribution to the Grants Committee.
Deadline for Applications:
Applications must be received no later than March 28, 2014. Successful applicants will be notified no later than May 2, 2014.
Address for Submission of Applications:
Three copies of the application documentation should be forwarded to: Bonnie Lawlor, CSA Trust Grant Committee Chair, 276 Upper Gulph Road, Radnor, PA 19087, USA. If you wish to enter your application by e-mail, please contact Bonnie Lawlor at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to submission so that she can contact you if the e-mail does not arrive.
UPDATE (3/21) - I was contacted by the author of the paper who pointed out that my analysis was based on a misunderstanding of the paper. Specifically
- The primary goal of WES is to identify actives – and according to the authors definition, the most interesting actives (that should be ranked highly) are those that have no dose response and show a constant activity equal to the positive control. Next in importance are compounds that exhibit a dose response. Finally the least interesting (and so lowest ranked) are those that show no dose response and are flat at the negative control level.
- The WES method requires that data be normalized such that DMSO (i.e., negative control) is at 0 and positive control is at 100%.
Since my analysis was based on the wrong normalization scheme the conclusions were erroneous. When the proper normalization is taken into account, the method works as advertised in that it correctly ranks compounds that show constant activity at the positive control level at the top, followed by curves with a dose response and finally with inactives (no activity at all) at the bottom.
Based on this I’ve updated the figures and text to correct my mistake. However, in my opinion, if the goal is to identify compounds that have a constant activity one does not need to go to entropy. In addition, for the case of compounds with a well defined dose response, the WES essentially ranks them by potency (assuming a valid curve fit). The updated text goes on to discuss these aspects.
UPDATE (2/25) - Regenerated the enrichment curves so that data was ranked in the correct order when LAC50 was being used.
I came across a paper that describes the use of weighted entropy to rank order dose response curves. As this data type is the bread and butter of my day job a simple ranking method is always of interest to me. While the method works as advertised, it appears to be a rather constrained method and doesn’t seem to do a whole let better than simpler, pre-existing approaches.
The paper correctly notes that there is no definitive protocol to rank compounds using their dose response curves. Such rankings are invariably problem dependent – in some cases, simple potency based ranking of good quality curves is sufficient. In other cases structural clustering combined with a measure of potency enrichment is more suitable. In addition, it is also true that all compounds in a screen do not necessarily fit well to a 4-parameter Hill model. This may simply be due to noise but could also be due to some process that is better fit by some other model (bell or U shaped curves). The point being that rankings based on a pre-defined model may not be useful or accurate.
The paper proposes the use of entropy as a way to rank dose response curves in a model-free manner. While a natural approach is to use Shannon entropy, the author suggests that the equal weighting implicit in the calculation is unsuitable. Instead, the use of weighted entropy (WES) is proposed as a more robust approach that takes into account unreliable data points. The author defines the weights based on the level of detection of the assay (though I’d argue that since the intended goal is to capture the reliability of individual response points, a more appropriate weight should be derived from some form of variance – either from replicate data or else pooled across the collection) . The author then suggests that curves should be ranked by the WES value, with higher values indicating a better rank.
For any proposed ranking scheme, one must first define what the goal is. When ranking dose response curves are we looking for compounds
- that exhibit well defined dose response (top and bottom asymptotes, > 80% efficacy etc)?
- good potency, even if the curve is not that well fit?
- compounds with a specific chemotype?
According to the paper, a key goal is to be able to identify compounds that show a constant activity – and within such compounds the more interesting ones are those that have constant activity = 100%. While I disagree that these are the most interesting compounds, it is not clear why one would need an entropy based method to identify such constant-activity curves (either at 100% or 0%).
More generally, for well defined dose response curves, the WES, by definition, tracks potency. This can be seen in the figure alongside that plots the WES value vs the log AC50 for a set of 27 good quality curves taken from a screen of 1408 AR agonists. Granted, when no model can be fit, one does not have an AC50, whereas a WES can be evaluated. But in such a case it’s not clear why one would necessarily want to quantify presumably noisy data.
However, going along with the authors definition, the method does distinguish valid dose responses from inactives (though again, one does not require entropy to make such a distinction!) as shown in the adjoining figure. It is clear from the definition of WES that a curve that is flat at 100% will exhibit the maximum value of WES and so will always rank high.
One way to to test the performance of ranking methods this is to take a collection of curves, rank them by a measure and identify how many actives are identified in the top N% of the collection, for varying N. Ideally, a good ranking would identify nearly all the actives for a small N. If the ranking were random one would identify N% of the actives in the top N% of the collection. Here an active is defined in terms of curve class, a heuristic that we use to initially weed out poor quality curves and focus on good quality ones. I defined active as curve classes 1.1, 1.2, 2.2 and 2.1 (see here for a summary of curve classes).
As pointed out by the author during our conversation, this is not an entirely fair comparison – since my scheme does not consider a flat curve at 100% as active. Though it’s a valid point, the dataset I worked with did not have any such curves. More generally, such curves would be the exception in a qHTS screen (assuming the concentration ranges have been correctly chosen). From that point of view, one should be able to apply WES to generate a ranking for any qHTS screen otherwise one would have to inspect the curves first to ensure that it contains such “flat actives” and then apply WES. Which is not the right way to go about it.
As shown in the enrichment plot shown alongside (generated for the 1408 compound AR agonist dataset), WES works better than random (and much better than the standard Shannon entropy), but is still outperformed by the area under the dose response curve (AUC) and potency. I certainly don’t claim that AUC is a completely robust way to rank dose response curves (in fact for some cases such as invalid curve fits, it’d be nonsensical). I also include LAC50, the logarithm of the AC50, as a ranking method simply because the paper considers it a poor way to rank curves (which I agree with, particularly if one does not first filter for good quality, efficacious curves).
There are a few other issues, though I think the most egregious one was that the method was tested on just one dataset. I’m not convinced that a single dataset represents a sufficient validation (given that Tox21 has about 80 published bioassays in PubChem). But that’s a case of poor reviewing rather than a technical flaw.
I came across a recent paper from the Tropsha group that discusses the issue of modelability – that is, can a dataset (represented as a set of computed descriptors and an experimental endpoint) be reliably modeled. Obviously the definition of reliable is key here and the authors focus on a cross-validated classification accuracy as the measure of reliability. Furthermore they focus on binary classification. This leads to a simple definition of modelability – for each data point, identify whether it’s nearest neighbor is in the same class as the data point. Then, the ratio of number of observations whose nearest neighbor is in the same activity class to the number observations in that activity class, summed over all classes gives the MODI score. Essentially this is a statement on linear separability within a given representation.
The authors then go show a pretty good correlation between the MODI scores over a number of datasets and their classification accuracy. But this leads to the question – if one has a dataset and associated modeling tools, why compute the MODI? The authors state
we suggest that MODI is a simple characteristic that can be easily computed for any dataset at the onset of any QSAR investigation
I’m not being rigorous here, but I suspect for smaller datasets the time requirements for MODI calculations is pretty similar to building the models themselves and for very large datasets MODI calculations may take longer (due to the requirement of a distance matrix calculation – though this could be alleviated using ANN or LSH). In other words – just build the model!
Another issue is the relation between MODI and SVM classification accuracy. The key feature of SVMs is that they apply the kernel trick to transform the input dataset into a higher dimensional space that (hopefully) allows for better separability. As a result MODI calculated on the input dataset should not necessarily be related to the transformed dataset that is actually operated on by the SVM. In other words a dataset with poor MODI could be well modeled by an SVM using an appropriate kernel.
The paper, by definition, doesn’t say anything about what model would be best for a given dataset. Furthermore, it’s important to realize that every dataset can be perfectly predicted using a sufficiently complex model. This is also known as an overfit model. The MODI approach to modelability avoids this by considering a cross-validated accuracy measure.
One application of MODI that does come to mind is for feature selection - identify a descriptor subset that leads to a predictive model. This is justified by the observed correlation between the MODI scores and the observed classification rates and would avoid having to test feature subsets with the modeling algorithm itself. An alternative application (as pointed out by the authors) is to identify subsets of the data that exhibit a good MODI score, thus leading to a local QSAR model.
More generally, it would be interesting to extend the concept to regression models. Intuitively, a dataset that is continuous in a given representation should have a better modelability than one that is discontinuous. This is exactly the scenario that can be captured using the activity landscape approach. Sometime back I looked at characterizing the roughness of an activity landscape using SALI and applied it to the feature selection problem – being able to correlate such a measure to predictive accuracy of models built on those datasets could allow one to address modelability (and more specifically, what level of continuity should a landscape present to be modelable) in general.
Version 3.5.2 of the fingerprint package has been pushed to CRAN. This update includes a contribution from Abhik Seal that significantly speeds up similarity matrix calculations using the Tanimoto metric.
His patch led to a 10-fold improvement in running time. However his code involved the use of nested for loops in R. This is a well known bottleneck and most idiomatic R code replaces for loops with a member of the sapply/lapply/tapply family. In this case however, it was easier to write a small piece of C code to perform the loops, resulting in a 4- to 6-fold improvement over Abhiks observed running times (see figure summarizing Tanimoto similarity matrix calculation for 1024 bit fingerprints, with 256 bits randomly selected to be 1). As always, the latest code is available on Github.