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Background: Determining which target to pursue is a challenging and error-prone first step in developing a therapeutic treatment for a disease, where missteps are potentially very costly given the long-time frames and high expenses of drug development. With current informatics technology and machine learning algorithms, it is now possible to computationally discover therapeutic hypotheses by predicting clinically promising drug targets based on the evidence associating drug targets with disease indications. We have collected this evidence from Open Targets and additional databases that covers 17 sources of evidence for target-indication association and represented the data as a tensor of 21,437 × 2211 × 17. Results: As a proof-of-concept, we identified examples of successes and failures of target-indication pairs in clinical trials across 875 targets and 574 disease indications to build a gold-standard data set of 6140 known clinical outcomes. We designed and executed three benchmarking strategies to examine the performance of multiple machine learning models: Logistic Regression, LASSO, Random Forest, Tensor Factorization and Gradient Boosting Machine. With 10-fold cross-validation, tensor factorization achieved AUROC = 0.82 ± 0.02 and AUPRC = 0.71 ± 0.03. Across multiple validation schemes, this was comparable or better than other methods. Conclusion: In this work, we benchmarked a machine learning technique called tensor factorization for the problem of predicting clinical outcomes of therapeutic hypotheses. Results have shown that this method can achieve equal or better prediction performance compared with a variety of baseline models. We demonstrate one application of the method to predict outcomes of trials on novel indications of approved drug targets. This work can be expanded to targets and indications that have never been clinically tested and proposing novel target-indication hypotheses. Our proposed biologically-motivated cross-validation schemes provide insight into the robustness of the prediction performance. This has significant implications for all future methods that try to address this seminal problem in drug discovery.
Yao, J., Hurle, M. R., Nelson, M. R., & Agarwal, P. (2019). Predicting clinically promising therapeutic hypotheses using tensor factorization. BMC Bioinformatics, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12859-019-2664-1