The BMI lab bridges research in Machine Learning and Sequence Analysis methodology research and its application to biomedical problems. We collaborate with biologists and clinicians to develop real-world solutions. 

We work on research questions and foundational challenges in storing, analysing, and searching extensive heterogeneous and temporal data, especially in the biomedical domain. Our lab members address technical and non-technical research questions in collaboration with biologists and clinicians. At the research group’s core is an active knowledge exchange in both directions between the methods and the application-driven researchers.

The emergence of data-driven medicine leverages data and algorithms to shape how we diagnose and treat patients. Machine Learning approaches allow us to capitalise on the vast amount of data produced in clinical settings to generate novel biomedical insights and build more precise predictive models of disease outcomes and treatment efficacy. 

We work towards this transformation mainly but not exclusively in two key areas. One key application area is the analysis of heterogeneous data of cancer patients. For Genomics, we develop algorithms for storing, compressing, and searching extensive genomics datasets. Another key area is the development of time series models of patient health states and early warning systems for intensive care units.


Abstract In this paper, we explore the structure of the penultimate Gram matrix in deep neural networks, which contains the pairwise inner products of outputs corresponding to a batch of inputs. In several architectures it has been observed that this Gram matrix becomes degenerate with depth at initialization, which dramatically slows training. Normalization layers, such as batch or layer normalization, play a pivotal role in preventing the rank collapse issue. Despite promising advances, the existing theoretical results (i) do not extend to layer normalization, which is widely used in transformers, (ii) can not characterize the bias of normalization quantitatively at finite depth. To bridge this gap, we provide a proof that layer normalization, in conjunction with activation layers, biases the Gram matrix of a multilayer perceptron towards isometry at an exponential rate with depth at initialization. We quantify this rate using the Hermite expansion of the activation function, highlighting the importance of higher order (≥2) Hermite coefficients in the bias towards isometry.

Authors Amir Joudaki, Hadi Daneshmand, Francis Bach

Submitted NeurIPS 2023 (poster)

Abstract Recent advances in deep learning architectures for sequence modeling have not fully transferred to tasks handling time-series from electronic health records. In particular, in problems related to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the state-of-the-art remains to tackle sequence classification in a tabular manner with tree-based methods. Recent findings in deep learning for tabular data are now surpassing these classical methods by better handling the severe heterogeneity of data input features. Given the similar level of feature heterogeneity exhibited by ICU time-series and motivated by these findings, we explore these novel methods' impact on clinical sequence modeling tasks. By jointly using such advances in deep learning for tabular data, our primary objective is to underscore the importance of step-wise embeddings in time-series modeling, which remain unexplored in machine learning methods for clinical data. On a variety of clinically relevant tasks from two large-scale ICU datasets, MIMIC-III and HiRID, our work provides an exhaustive analysis of state-of-the-art methods for tabular time-series as time-step embedding models, showing overall performance improvement. In particular, we evidence the importance of feature grouping in clinical time-series, with significant performance gains when considering features within predefined semantic groups in the step-wise embedding module.

Authors Rita Kuznetsova, Alizée Pace, Manuel Burger, Hugo Yèche, Gunnar Rätsch

Submitted ML4H 2023 (PMLR)

Link DOI

Abstract Clinicians are increasingly looking towards machine learning to gain insights about patient evolutions. We propose a novel approach named Multi-Modal UMLS Graph Learning (MMUGL) for learning meaningful representations of medical concepts using graph neural networks over knowledge graphs based on the unified medical language system. These representations are aggregated to represent entire patient visits and then fed into a sequence model to perform predictions at the granularity of multiple hospital visits of a patient. We improve performance by incorporating prior medical knowledge and considering multiple modalities. We compare our method to existing architectures proposed to learn representations at different granularities on the MIMIC-III dataset and show that our approach outperforms these methods. The results demonstrate the significance of multi-modal medical concept representations based on prior medical knowledge.

Authors Manuel Burger, Gunnar Rätsch, Rita Kuznetsova

Submitted ML4H 2023 (PMLR)

Link DOI

Abstract Flexibly quantifying both irreducible aleatoric and model-dependent epistemic uncertainties plays an important role for complex regression problems. While deep neural networks in principle can provide this flexibility and learn heteroscedastic aleatoric uncertainties through non-linear functions, recent works highlight that maximizing the log likelihood objective parameterized by mean and variance can lead to compromised mean fits since the gradient are scaled by the predictive variance, and propose adjustments in line with this premise. We instead propose to use the natural parametrization of the Gaussian, which has been shown to be more stable for heteroscedastic regression based on non-linear feature maps and Gaussian processes. Further, we emphasize the significance of principled regularization of the network parameters and prediction. We therefore propose an efficient Laplace approximation for heteroscedastic neural networks that allows automatic regularization through empirical Bayes and provides epistemic uncertainties, both of which improve generalization. We showcase on a range of regression problems—including a new heteroscedastic image regression benchmark—that our methods are scalable, improve over previous approaches for heteroscedastic regression, and provide epistemic uncertainty without requiring hyperparameter tuning.

Authors Alexander Immer, Emanuele Palumbo, Alexander Marx, Julia E Vogt

Submitted NeurIPS 2023


Abstract Selecting hyperparameters in deep learning greatly impacts its effectiveness but requires manual effort and expertise. Recent works show that Bayesian model selection with Laplace approximations can allow to optimize such hyperparameters just like standard neural network parameters using gradients and on the training data. However, estimating a single hyperparameter gradient requires a pass through the entire dataset, limiting the scalability of such algorithms. In this work, we overcome this issue by introducing lower bounds to the linearized Laplace approximation of the marginal likelihood. In contrast to previous estimators, these bounds are amenable to stochastic-gradient-based optimization and allow to trade off estimation accuracy against computational complexity. We derive them using the function-space form of the linearized Laplace, which can be estimated using the neural tangent kernel. Experimentally, we show that the estimators can significantly accelerate gradient-based hyperparameter optimization.

Authors Alexander Immer, Tycho FA van der Ouderaa, Mark van der Wilk, Gunnar Rätsch, Bernhard Schölkopf

Submitted ICML 2023