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  1. Abstract Background

    Computational drug repurposing is a cost- and time-efficient approach that aims to identify new therapeutic targets or diseases (indications) of existing drugs/compounds. It is especially critical for emerging and/or orphan diseases due to its cheaper investment and shorter research cycle compared with traditional wet-lab drug discovery approaches. However, the underlying mechanisms of action (MOAs) between repurposed drugs and their target diseases remain largely unknown, which is still a main obstacle for computational drug repurposing methods to be widely adopted in clinical settings.


    In this work, we propose KGML-xDTD: a Knowledge Graph–based Machine Learning framework for explainably predicting Drugs Treating Diseases. It is a 2-module framework that not only predicts the treatment probabilities between drugs/compounds and diseases but also biologically explains them via knowledge graph (KG) path-based, testable MOAs. We leverage knowledge-and-publication–based information to extract biologically meaningful “demonstration paths” as the intermediate guidance in the Graph-based Reinforcement Learning (GRL) path-finding process. Comprehensive experiments and case study analyses show that the proposed framework can achieve state-of-the-art performance in both predictions of drug repurposing and recapitulation of human-curated drug MOA paths.


    KGML-xDTD is the first model framework that can offer KG path explanations for drug repurposing predictions by leveraging the combination of prediction outcomes and existing biological knowledge and publications. We believe it can effectively reduce “black-box” concerns and increase prediction confidence for drug repurposing based on predicted path-based explanations and further accelerate the process of drug discovery for emerging diseases.

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