DrugCLIP: Contrastive Protein-Molecule Representation Learning for Virtual Screening

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Bowen Gao, Bo Qiang, Haichuan Tan, Yinjun Jia, Minsi Ren, Minsi Lu, Jingjing Liu, Wei-Ying Ma, Yanyan Lan


Virtual screening, which identifies potential drugs from vast compound databases to bind with a particular protein pocket, is a critical step in AI-assisted drug discovery. Traditional docking methods are highly time-consuming, and can only work with a restricted search library in real-life applications. Recent supervised learning approaches using scoring functions for binding-affinity prediction, although promising, have not yet surpassed docking methods due to their strong dependency on limited data with reliable binding-affinity labels. In this paper, we propose a novel contrastive learning framework, DrugCLIP, by reformulating virtual screening as a dense retrieval task and employing contrastive learning to align representations of binding protein pockets and molecules from a large quantity of pairwise data without explicit binding-affinity scores. We also introduce a biological-knowledge inspired data augmentation strategy to learn better protein-molecule representations. Extensive experiments show that DrugCLIP significantly outperforms traditional docking and supervised learning methods on diverse virtual screening benchmarks with highly reduced computation time, especially in zero-shot setting.