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A Kernelized Stein Discrepancy for Biological Sequences

Alan Amin · Eli Weinstein · Debora Marks

Exhibit Hall 1 #310


Generative models of biological sequences are a powerful tool for learning from complex sequence data, predicting the effects of mutations, and designing novel biomolecules with desired properties. To evaluate generative models it is important to accurately measure differences between high-dimensional distributions. In this paper we propose the ``KSD-B'', a novel divergence measure for distributions over biological sequences that is based on the kernelized Stein discrepancy (KSD). The KSD-B can be evaluated even when the normalizing constant of the model is unknown; it allows for variable length sequences and can take into account biological notions of sequence distance. Unlike previous KSDs over discrete spaces the KSD-B (a) is theoretically guaranteed to detect convergence and non-convergence of distributions over sequence space and (b) can be efficiently estimated in practice. We demonstrate the advantages of the KSD-B on problems with synthetic and real data, and apply it to measure the fit of state-of-the-art machine learning models. Overall, the KSD-B enables rigorous evaluation of generative biological sequence models, allowing the accuracy of models, sampling procedures, and library designs to be checked reliably.

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