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Workshop: AI for Science: Progress and Promises

Neural Unbalanced Optimal Transport via Cycle-Consistent Semi-Couplings

Frederike L├╝beck · Charlotte Bunne · Gabriele Gut · Jacobo Sarabia del Castillo · Lucas Pelkmans · David Alvarez-Melis


Comparing unpaired samples of a distribution or population taken at different points in time is a fundamental task in many application domains where measuring populations is destructive and cannot be done repeatedly on the same sample, such as in single-cell biology. Optimal transport (OT) can solve this challenge by learning an optimal coupling of samples across distributions from unpaired data. However, the usual formulation of OT assumes conservation of mass, which is violated in unbalanced scenarios in which the population size changes (e.g., cell proliferation or death) between measurements. In this work, we introduce NubOT, a neural unbalanced OT formulation that relies on the formalism of semi-couplings to account for creation and destruction of mass. To estimate such semi-couplings and generalize out-of-sample, we derive an efficient parameterization based on neural OT maps and propose a novel algorithmic scheme through a cycle-consistent training procedure. We apply our method to the challenging task of forecasting heterogeneous responses of multiple cancer cell lines to various drugs, where we observe that by accurately modeling cell proliferation and death our method yields notable improvements over previous neural optimal transport methods.

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