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Workshop: Machine Learning in Structural Biology Workshop

Enhancing Ligand Pose Sampling for Machine Learning–Based Docking

Patricia Suriana · Ron Dror


Deep learning promises to dramatically improve scoring functions for molecular docking, leading to substantial advances in binding pose prediction and virtual screening. To train scoring functions—and to perform molecular docking—one must generate a set of candidate ligand binding poses. Unfortunately, the sampling protocols currently used to generate candidate poses frequently fail to produce any poses close to the correct, experimentally determined pose, unless information about the correct pose is provided. This limits the accuracy of learned scoring functions and molecular docking. Here, we describe several improved protocols for pose sampling: GLOW (auGmented sampLing with sOftened vdW potential) and a novel technique named IVES (IteratiVe Ensemble Sampling). Our benchmarking results demonstrate the effectiveness of our methods in improving the likelihood of sampling accurate poses, especially for binding pockets whose shape changes substantially when different ligands bind. This improvement is observed across both experimentally determined and AlphaFold-generated protein structures. Additionally, we present datasets of candidate ligand poses generated using our methods for each of around 5,000 protein-ligand cross-docking pairs, for training and testing scoring functions. To benefit the research community, we provide an open-source Python implementation of GLOW and IVES and the newly created cross-docking datasets at

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