ICML 2023
Conference paper

Reprogramming Pretrained Language Models for Antibody Sequence Infilling


Antibodies comprise the most versatile class of binding molecules, with numerous applications in biomedicine. Computational design of antibodies involves generating novel and diverse sequences, while maintaining structural consistency. Unique to antibodies, designing the complementarity-determining region (CDR), which determines the antigen binding affinity and specificity, creates its own unique challenges. Recent deep learning models have shown impressive results, however the limited number of known antibody sequence/structure pairs frequently leads to degraded performance, particularly lacking diversity in the generated sequences. In our work we address this challenge by leveraging Model Reprogramming (MR), which repurposes pretrained models on a source language to adapt to the tasks that are in a different language and have scarce data -- where it may be difficult to train a high-performing model from scratch or effectively fine-tune an existing pre-trained model on the specific task. Specifically, we introduce ReprogBert in which a pretrained English language model is repurposed for protein sequence infilling -- thus considers cross-language adaptation using less data. Results on antibody design benchmarks show that our model on low-resourced antibody sequence dataset provides highly diverse CDR sequences, up to more than a two-fold increase of diversity over the baselines, without losing structural integrity and naturalness. The generated sequences also demonstrate enhanced antigen binding specificity and virus neutralization ability.