Self-Focusing Virtual Screening with Active Design Space Pruning
High-throughput virtual screening is an indispensable technique utilized in the discovery of small molecules. In cases where the library of molecules is exceedingly large, the cost of an exhaustive virtual screen may be prohibitive. Model-guided optimization has been employed to lower these costs through dramatic increases in sample efficiency compared to random selection. However, these techniques introduce new costs to the workflow through the surrogate model training and inference steps. In this study, we propose an extension to the framework of model-guided optimization that mitigates inference costs using a technique we refer to as design space pruning (DSP), which irreversibly removes poor-performing candidates from consideration. We study the application of DSP to a variety of optimization tasks and observe significant reductions in overhead costs while exhibiting similar performance to the baseline optimization. DSP represents an attractive extension of model-guided optimization that can limit overhead costs in optimization settings where these costs are non-negligible relative to objective costs, such as docking.