Drug Repositioning through the Development of Diverse Computational Methods using Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and Graph Mining

  • Maha A. Thafar

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The rapidly increasing number of existing drugs with genomic, biomedical, and pharmacological data make computational analyses possible, which reduces the search space for drugs and facilitates drug repositioning (DR). Thus, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data mining have been used to identify biological interactions such as drug-target interactions (DTI), drug-disease associations, and drug-response. The prediction of these biological interactions is seen as a critical phase needed to make drug development more sustainable. Furthermore, late-stage drug development failures are usually a consequence of ineffective targets. Thus, proper target identification is needed. In this dissertation, we tried to address three crucial problems associated with the DR pipeline and presents several novel computational methods developed for DR. First, we developed three network-based DTI prediction methods using machine learning, graph embedding, and graph mining. These methods significantly improved prediction performance, and the best-performing method reduces the error rate by more than 33% across all datasets compared to the best state-of-the-art method. Second, because it is more insightful to predict continuous values that indicate how tightly the drug binds to a specific target, we conducted a comparison study of current regression-based methods that predict drug-target binding affinities (DTBA). We discussed how to develop more robust DTBA methods and subsequently developed Affinity2Vec, the first regression-based method that formulates the entire task as a graph-based method and combines several computational techniques from feature representation learning, graph mining, and machine learning with no 3D structural data of proteins. Affinity2Vec outperforms the state-of-the-art methods. Finally, since drug development failure is associated with sub-optimal target identification, we developed the first DL-based computational method (OncoRTT) to identify cancer-specific therapeutic targets for the ten most common cancers worldwide. Implementing our approach required creating a suitable dataset that could be used by the computational method to identify oncology-related DTIs. Thus, we created the OncologyTT datasets to build and evaluate our OncoRTT method. Our methods demonstrated their efficiency by achieving high prediction performance and identifying therapeutic targets for several cancer types. Overall, in this dissertation, we developed several computational methods to solve biomedical domain problems, specifically drug repositioning, and demonstrated their efficiencies and capabilities.
Date of AwardJun 30 2022
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorXin Gao (Supervisor)


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine/Deep Learning
  • Graph Mining
  • Graph Embedding
  • Bioinformatics
  • Drug-target interaction
  • Drug-target binding affinity
  • Target Identification

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