Interpretable Chirality-Aware Graph Neural Network for Quantitative Structure Activity Relationship Modeling in Drug Discovery

  • Yunchao Lance Liu (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA)
  • Jens Meiler (Leipzig University/ Vanderbilt University)
G3 10 (Lecture hall)


In computer-aided drug discovery, quantitative structure activity relation models are trained to predict biological activity from chemical structure. Despite the recent success of applying graph neural networks (GNNs) to this task, important chemical information such as molecular chirality is ignored. To fill this crucial gap, we propose Molecular-Kernel Graph Neural Network (MolKGNN) for molecular representation learning, which features SE(3)-/conformation invariance, chirality-awareness, and interpretability. For our MolKGNN, we first design a molecular graph convolution to capture the chemical pattern by comparing the atom’s similarity with the learnable molecular kernels. Furthermore, we propagate the similarity score to capture the higher-order chemical pattern. To assess the method, we conduct a comprehensive evaluation with nine well-curated datasets spanning numerous important drug targets that feature realistic high class imbalance and it demonstrates the superiority of MolKGNN over other GNNs in Computer-Aided Drug Discovery (CADD). Meanwhile, the learned kernels identify patterns that agree with domain knowledge, confirming the pragmatic interpretability of this approach. Our codes are publicly available at

Katharina Matschke

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences Contact via Mail

Guido Montúfar

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences

Pradeep Kr. Banerjee

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences

Kedar Karhadkar

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences