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Workshop: Adaptive Experimental Design and Active Learning in the Real World

Optimistic Games for Combinatorial Bayesian Optimization with Applications to Protein Design

Melis Ilayda Bal · Pier Giuseppe Sessa · Mojmir Mutny · Andreas Krause

Abstract: Bayesian optimization (BO) is a powerful framework to optimize black box expensive-to-evaluate functions via sequential interactions. In several important problems (e.g. drug discovery, circuit design, neural architecture search, etc.), though, such functions are defined over $\textit{combinatorial and unstructured}$ spaces. This makes existing BO algorithms not feasible due to the intractable maximization of the acquisition function to find informative evaluation points. To address this issue, we propose $\textbf{GameOpt}$, a novel game-theoretical approach to combinatorial BO. $\textbf{GameOpt}$ establishes a cooperative game between the different optimization variables and computes informative points to be game $\textit{equilibria}$ of the acquisition function. These are stable configurations from which no variable has an incentive to deviate -- analogous to local optima in continuous domains. Crucially, this allows us to efficiently break down the complexity of the combinatorial domain into individual decision sets, making $\textbf{GameOpt}$ scalable to large combinatorial spaces. We demonstrate the application of $\textbf{GameOpt}$ to the challenging $\textit{protein design}$ problem and validate its performance on two real-world protein datasets. Each protein can take up to $20^{X}$ possible configurations, where $X$ is the length of a protein, making standard BO methods unusable. Instead, our approach iteratively selects informative protein configurations and very quickly discovers highly active protein variants compared to other baselines.

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