Autonomous generator of novel organic compounds from target physicochemical properties. It accelerates innovations in novel materials and/or drugs with specific target properties.
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inverse molecular design for R: iqspr v2.4

It is devoted to the autonomous generation of novel organic compounds with target physicochemical properties initially constrained by the user. This package has the ambition to become an unavoidable tool in the innovation of novel materials and/or drugs with specific target properties.


The structure of chemical species can be uniquely encoded in a single string of standard text characters called SMILES (Simplified Molecular Input Line Entry Specification). A very nice presentation of the SMILES notation can be found here. If one knows the SMILES of a chemical compound, its 2D structure can be univoquely re-constructed. One of the aspect of the SMILES format is that it's particularly useful in the prediction of properties of compounds. The link that exists between the structure of a compound and its properties is generally called a QSPR (Quantitative Structure-Properties Relationship), and it has been widely used in cheminformatics for the design of new compounds. Generally, compounds structures are primarily investigated by chemists following a trial-and-error construction controlled by their existing knowledge of the chemistry and their intuition. The properties of the investigated compounds are then checked by direct experiments and/or driven by a QSPR analysis. In this kind of analysis, numerous descriptors can be build from the SMILES format. These descriptors can be represented a set of binary and/or continuous properties based on the existence of certain fragments in a molecule, or on the ability of its bonds to rotate for example. An introduction and overview concerning the molecular descriptors can be found here. Then, the descriptors are parsed as input features for a given regression model to predict output properties for a list of novel compounds. This kind of reconstruction of the properties of compounds from descriptors is called a forward prediction.

This package is entirely devoted to the inverse problem which is the backward prediction. The generation of entirely novel SMILES in output, and consequently chemical compounds, from input targeted properties initially constrained by a user. Thanks to the inverse-QSPR model(via), this is now possible. This package has the ambition to become a useful tool, in the innovation of novel materials, in a field that is now widely referred as Materials Informatics. It is important to note that as SMILES is the basis format for this package, only organic molecular non-crystalline compounds can be generated.

Let's get started

Docker image (Highly recommended)

  • Install Docker (latest) for your OS from here
  • Go to Preferences of Docker, then click on the Advanced tab, and allocae half of your CPUs and Memory ressources to Docker. Then, close the Preferences window.
  • For MAC/Windows users, you'll need to take note of the IP address allocated to the virtual machine in which a Linux and all the necessary ressources to RStudio and iqspr are installed. For this, open a terminal window to type:
docker-machine ls

In output, note the IP address indicated in the URL column such as: tcp://<IP_address>:<...>

If the URL column is empty and the STATE is Stopped, enter:

docker-machine start default

And follow the suggestions given in output. This should take few minutes for the IP allocation.

Then, do:

docker-machine ip default 

that returns the IP address you previously noted. Linux/MAC users can also just use localhost in place of this
IP address.

Then, make a directory where your work will be saved. For example (for Linux/MAC users):

mkdir -p /Users/<user_name>/Documents/dockerspace

or (Windows users):

md c:\dockerspace

Then, change the permission on the created directory, such like (Linux/MAC users):

chmod 777 /Users/<user_name>/Documents/dockerspace

or (Windows users):

icacls "c:\dockerspace" /grant Users:F

You will now be able to share files between the Docker container and your machine. All the output files created or readable in the Docker container will be located in this directory or its sub-directories.

Finally, run the container via:

sudo docker run -d -p 8787:8787 -e ROOT=TRUE -v <working_directory>:/home/rstudio/dockerspace --name iqspr_shared lambard/iqspr

(Windows users do not need to use sudo) <working_directory> is the directory created above. Please, respect the following naming /home/rstudio/<dockerspace_directory> for the shared directory in the Docker container.

This should take few minutes for the downloading of the Docker image for iqspr. Then, open a window on your web browser, and for the address type:




This should open a virtual session of RStudio in your browser. To log in, just use rstudio as username and password.

That's it! You can now use iqspr by following the tutorial delivered with the package (in Packages tab, click on the iqspr package in RStudio. Then, refer to the user guide, package vignettes and other documentation.)

For Docker image updates

You'll have to stop and erase the running iqspr container, then erase the iqspr Docker image, to finally install the latest version, as follows:

  • Note the container ID of the currently running iqspr image with:
sudo docker ps 

(if the container is already stopped, sudo docker ps -a will do the job)

  • Then, stop and erase the container with:
sudo docker stop <container_ID>

Followed by,

sudo docker rm <container_ID>

In this process, your working directory dockerspace is not affected and can be re-used without loss of files. Then, erase the current image from Docker with:

sudo docker images

to note the image's name, and

sudo docker rmi <image_name>

<image_name> should be lambard/iqspr except if you tagged it with another name.

Finally, re-run the iqspr Docker image with:

sudo docker run -d -p 8787:8787 -e ROOT=TRUE -v <working_directory>:/home/rstudio/dockerspace --name iqspr_shared lambard/iqspr

The latest iqspr Docker image is installed and ready.

Install from Source (iqspr v2.3 (obsolete) - highly depends on your system architecture)

  • Install R >= 3.3.3 from here

  • Install RStudio from here

  • Install JAVA JDK <= 1.8 from here

(for issues concerning the intallation of rJava, a dependency of the rcdk package included in iqspr, on MAC OS X, please follow these links here and here)

  • Install the OpenBabel >= 2.3.1 with headers from here.

OpenBabel is compulsory to the check of the validity for the generated SMILES and their re-ordering.

  • (Optional) Install mxnet >= 0.9.4 for the deep learning capabilities from here.

  • Install the devtools package in RStudio

  • (Recommended) Install rcdk == 3.3.8 and dependencies for better compatibilities in RStudio
install_version("rcdk", version="3.3.8", repos="")
  • Finally, install iqspr in RStudio

That's it! You can now use iqspr by following the tutorial delivered with the package (in Packages tab, click on the iqspr package in RStudio. Then, refer to the user guide, package vignettes and other documentation.)

How does it work

The iqspr package takes initial datasets of SMILES with their known physico-chemical properties (HOMO-LUMO gap, internal energy, melting point, toxicity, solubility, etc.) as input. Then, the SMILES are transformed in their corresponding descriptors to construct a vector of features per compound. Linear or non-linear regression models are then trained with these vectors in input, and given properties in output, to form the forward prediction model. This done, the natural language processing principle is used to build n-grams from a list of known SMILES to build a chemical grammar. Once the model for the chemical grammar is formed, a generator of SMILES is then available. This generator corresponds to the prior knownledge about viable chemical compounds, i.e. chemically possible, stable and which tend to be synthesizable. Finally, following the Bayes law, prior knowledge and forward prediction models, i.e. the likelihoods of a chemical structure to possess a certain property, can be linked to emulate the posterior, i.e. the probability that a given property can be represented by a given structure. Technically, thanks to a SMC (sequential Monte-Carlo), the prior distribution of possible structures is sampled (SMILES are sequentially modified character-by-character), the properties of the generated structures are predicted via the forward model, and these structures are then again transformed according to the distance of their properties to the target properties space. To resume, thanks to a character-wise directed modification of SMILES, according to a prior knownledge of realistic chemical compounds, coupled to the forward model predictions, entirely novel SMILES with desired properties are autonomously generated.