Welcome to the Biomedical Informatics Lab of Prof. Dr. Gunnar Rätsch

The research in our group lies at the interface between methods research in Machine Learning, Genomics and Medical Informatics and relevant applications in biology and medicine.

We develop new analysis techniques that are capable of dealing with large amounts of medical and genomic data. These techniques aim to provide accurate predictions on the phenomenon at hand and to comprehensibly provide reasons for their prognoses, and thereby assist in gaining new biomedical insights.

Current research includes a) Machine Learning related to time-series analysis and iterative optimization algorithms, b) methods for transcriptome analyses to study transcriptome alterations in cancer, c) developing clinical decision support systems, in particular, for time series data from intensive care units, d) new graph genome algorithms to store and analyze very large sets of genomic sequences, and e) developing methods and resources for international sharing of genomic and clinical data, for instance, about variants in BRCA1/2.

Abstract In this paper, we propose the first practical algorithm to minimize stochastic composite optimization problems over compact convex sets. This template allows for affine constraints and therefore covers stochastic semidefinite programs (SDPs), which are vastly applicable in both machine learning and statistics. In this setup, stochastic algorithms with convergence guarantees are either not known or not tractable. We tackle this general problem and propose a convergent, easy to implement and tractable algorithm. We prove $\mathcal{O}(k^{-1/3})$ convergence rate in expectation on the objective residual and $\mathcal{O}(k^{-5/12})$ in expectation on the feasibility gap. These rates are achieved without increasing the batchsize, which can contain a single sample. We present extensive empirical evidence demonstrating the superiority of our algorithm on a broad range of applications including optimization of stochastic SDPs.

Authors Francesco Locatello, Alp Yurtsever, Olivier Fercoq, Volkan Cevher

Submitted NeurIPS 2019

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Abstract A disentangled representation encodes information about the salient factors of variation in the data independently. Although it is often argued that this representational format is useful in learning to solve many real-world up-stream tasks, there is little empirical evidence that supports this claim. In this paper, we conduct a large-scale study that investigates whether disentangled representations are more suitable for abstract reasoning tasks. Using two new tasks similar to Raven's Progressive Matrices, we evaluate the usefulness of the representations learned by 360 state-of-the-art unsupervised disentanglement models. Based on these representations, we train 3600 abstract reasoning models and observe that disentangled representations do in fact lead to better up-stream performance. In particular, they appear to enable quicker learning using fewer samples.

Authors Sjoerd van Steenkiste, Francesco Locatello, Jürgen Schmidhuber, Olivier Bachem

Submitted NeurIPS 2019

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Abstract Recently there has been a significant interest in learning disentangled representations, as they promise increased interpretability, generalization to unseen scenarios and faster learning on downstream tasks. In this paper, we investigate the usefulness of different notions of disentanglement for improving the fairness of downstream prediction tasks based on representations. We consider the setting where the goal is to predict a target variable based on the learned representation of high-dimensional observations (such as images) that depend on both the target variable and an unobserved sensitive variable. We show that in this setting both the optimal and empirical predictions can be unfair, even if the target variable and the sensitive variable are independent. Analyzing more than 12600 trained representations of state-of-the-art disentangled models, we observe that various disentanglement scores are consistently correlated with increased fairness, suggesting that disentanglement may be a useful property to encourage fairness when sensitive variables are not observed.

Authors Francesco Locatello, Gabriele Abbati, Tom Rainforth, Stefan Bauer, Bernhard Schölkopf, Olivier Bachem

Submitted NeurIPS 2019

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Abstract Learning meaningful and compact representations with structurally disentangled semantic aspects is considered to be of key importance in representation learning. Since real-world data is notoriously costly to collect, many recent state-of-the-art disentanglement models have heavily relied on synthetic toy data-sets. In this paper, we propose a novel data-set which consists of over 450'000 images of physical 3D objects with seven factors of variation, such as object color, shape, size and position. In order to be able to control all the factors of variation precisely, we built an experimental platform where the objects are being moved by a robotic arm. In addition, we provide two more datasets which consist of simulations of the experimental setup. These datasets provide for the first time the possibility to systematically investigate how well different disentanglement methods perform on real data in comparison to simulation, and how simulated data can be leveraged to build better representations of the real world.

Authors Muhammad Waleed Gondal, Manuel Wüthrich, Đorđe Miladinović, Francesco Locatello, Martin Breidt, Valentin Volchkov, Joel Akpo, Olivier Bachem, Bernhard Schölkopf, Stefan Bauer

Submitted NeurIPS 2019

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Abstract Generating visualizations and interpretations from high-dimensional data is a common problem in many fields. Two key approaches for tackling this problem are clustering and representation learning. There are very performant deep clustering models on the one hand and interpretable representation learning techniques, often relying on latent topological structures such as self-organizing maps, on the other hand. However, current methods do not yet successfully combine these two approaches. We present a new deep architecture for probabilistic clustering, VarPSOM, and its extension to time series data, VarTPSOM. We show that they achieve superior clustering performance compared to current deep clustering methods on static MNIST/Fashion-MNIST data as well as medical time series, while inducing an interpretable representation. Moreover, on the medical time series, VarTPSOM successfully predicts future trajectories in the original data space.

Authors Laura Manduchi, Matthias Hüser, Gunnar Rätsch, Vincent Fortuin

Submitted arXiv Preprints

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