Analysis of the Human Protein Atlas Image Classification competition

Nat Methods. 2019 Dec;16(12):1254-1261. doi: 10.1038/s41592-019-0658-6. Epub 2019 Nov 28.


Pinpointing subcellular protein localizations from microscopy images is easy to the trained eye, but challenging to automate. Based on the Human Protein Atlas image collection, we held a competition to identify deep learning solutions to solve this task. Challenges included training on highly imbalanced classes and predicting multiple labels per image. Over 3 months, 2,172 teams participated. Despite convergence on popular networks and training techniques, there was considerable variety among the solutions. Participants applied strategies for modifying neural networks and loss functions, augmenting data and using pretrained networks. The winning models far outperformed our previous effort at multi-label classification of protein localization patterns by ~20%. These models can be used as classifiers to annotate new images, feature extractors to measure pattern similarity or pretrained networks for a wide range of biological applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Deep Learning*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Proteins / analysis*


  • Proteins