Efficient Projection onto the Perfect Phylogeny Model

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Bei Jia, Surjyendu Ray, Sam Safavi, José Bento


Several algorithms build on the perfect phylogeny model to infer evolutionary trees. This problem is particularly hard when evolutionary trees are inferred from the fraction of genomes that have mutations in different positions, across different samples. Existing algorithms might do extensive searches over the space of possible trees. At the center of these algorithms is a projection problem that assigns a fitness cost to phylogenetic trees. In order to perform a wide search over the space of the trees, it is critical to solve this projection problem fast. In this paper, we use Moreau's decomposition for proximal operators, and a tree reduction scheme, to develop a new algorithm to compute this projection. Our algorithm terminates with an exact solution in a finite number of steps, and is extremely fast. In particular, it can search over all evolutionary trees with fewer than 11 nodes, a size relevant for several biological problems (more than 2 billion trees) in about 2 hours.