We introduce an artificial intelligence approach to de novo design of molecules with desired physical or biological properties.
We have devised and implemented a novel computational strategy for de novo design of molecules with desired properties termed ReLeaSE (Reinforcement Learning for Structural Evolution). On the basis of deep and reinforcement learning (RL) approaches, ReLeaSE integrates two deep neural networks—generative and predictive—that are trained separately but are used jointly to generate novel targeted chemical libraries. ReLeaSE uses simple representation of molecules by their simplified molecular-input line-entry system (SMILES) strings only. Generative models are trained with a stack-augmented memory network to produce chemically feasible SMILES strings, and predictive models are derived to forecast the desired properties of the de novo–generated compounds. In the first phase of the method, generative and predictive models are trained separately with a supervised learning algorithm. In the second phase, both models are trained jointly with the RL approach to bias the generation of new chemical structures toward those with the desired physical and/or biological properties. In the proof-of-concept study, we have used the ReLeaSE method to design chemical libraries with a bias toward structural complexity or toward compounds with maximal, minimal, or specific range of physical properties, such as melting point or hydrophobicity, or toward compounds with inhibitory activity against Janus protein kinase 2. The approach proposed herein can find a general use for generating targeted chemical libraries of novel compounds optimized for either a single desired property or multiple properties.