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Predicting human olfactory perception from chemical features of odor molecules

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Science  20 Feb 2017:
eaal2014
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2014

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Abstract

It is still not possible to predict whether a given molecule will have a perceived odor or what olfactory percept it will produce. We therefore organized the crowd-sourced DREAM Olfaction Prediction Challenge. Using a large olfactory psychophysical data set, teams developed machine-learning algorithms to predict sensory attributes of molecules based on their chemoinformatic features. The resulting models accurately predicted odor intensity and pleasantness and also successfully predicted 8 among 19 rated semantic descriptors (“garlic,” “fish,” “sweet,” “fruit,” “burnt,” “spices,” “flower,” and “sour”). Regularized linear models performed nearly as well as random forest–based ones, with a predictive accuracy that closely approaches a key theoretical limit. These models help to predict the perceptual qualities of virtually any molecule with high accuracy and also reverse-engineer the smell of a molecule.

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