Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track
Yemin Yu, Ying Wei, Kun Kuang, Zhengxing Huang, Huaxiu Yao, Fei Wu
Retrosynthetic planning occupies a crucial position in synthetic chemistry and, accordingly, drug discovery, which aims to find synthetic pathways of a target molecule through a sequential decision-making process on a set of feasible reactions. While the majority of recent works focus on the prediction of feasible reactions at each step, there have been limited attempts toward improving the sequential decision-making policy. Existing strategies rely on either the expensive and high-variance value estimation by online rollout, or a settled value estimation neural network pre-trained with simulated pathways of limited diversity and no negative feedback. Besides, how to return multiple candidate pathways that are not only diverse but also desirable for chemists (e.g., affordable building block materials) remains an open challenge. To this end, we propose a Goal-dRiven Actor-critic retroSynthetic Planning (GRASP) framework, where we identify the policy that performs goal-driven retrosynthesis navigation toward a user-demand objective. Our experiments on the benchmark Pistachio dataset and a chemists-designed dataset demonstrate that the framework outperforms state-of-the-art approaches by up to 32.2% on search efficiency and 5.6% on quality. Remarkably, our user studies show that GRASP successfully plans pathways that accomplish the goal prescribed with a designated goal (building block materials).