POEM: Parameter optimization using ensemble methods: Application to target specific scoring functions

Iris Antes, Christian Merkwirth, Thomas Lengauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In computational biology processes such as docking, binding, and folding are often described by simplified, empirical models. These models are fitted to physical properties of the process by adjustable parameters. An appropriate choice of these parameters is crucial for the quality of the models. Locating the best choices for the parameters is often is a difficult task, depending on the complexity of the model. We describe a new method and program, POEM (Parameter Optimization using Ensemble Methods), for this task. In POEM we combine the DOE (Design Of Experiment) procedure with ensembles of different regression methods. We apply the method to the optimization of target specific scoring functions in molecular docking. The method consists of an iterative procedure that uses alternate evaluation and prediction steps. During each cycle of optimization we fit an approximate function to a defined loss function landscape and improve the quality of this fit from cycle to cycle by constantly augmenting our data set. As test applications we fitted the FlexX and Screenscore scoring functions to the kinase and ATPase protein classes. The results are promising: Starting from random parameters we are able to locate parameter sets which show superior performance compared to the original values. The POEM approach converges quickly and the approximated loss function landscapes are smooth, thus making the approach a suitable method for optimizations on rugged landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1291-1302
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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