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Section: New Results

Sensitivity estimation for stochastic models of biochemical reaction networks in the presence of extrinsic variability

Participant : Jakob Ruess.

Determining the sensitivity of certain system states or outputs to variations in parameters facilitates our understanding of the inner working of that system and is an essential design tool for the de novo construction of robust systems. In cell biology, the output of interest is often the response of a certain reaction network to some input (e.g., stressors or nutrients) and one aims to quantify the sensitivity of this response in the presence of parameter heterogeneity. We argue that for such applications, parametric sensitivities in their standard form do not paint a complete picture of a system's robustness since one assumes that all cells in the population have the same parameters and are perturbed in the same way. In the published contribution, we consider stochastic reaction networks in which the parameters are randomly distributed over the population and propose a new sensitivity index that captures the robustness of system outputs upon changes in the characteristics of the parameter distribution, rather than the parameters themselvesĀ [4]. Subsequently, we make use of Girsanov's likelihood ratio method to construct a Monte Carlo estimator of this sensitivity index. However, it turns out that this estimator has an exceedingly large variance. To overcome this problem, we propose a novel estimation algorithm that makes use of a marginalization of the path distribution of stochastic reaction networks and leads to Rao-Blackwellized estimators with reduced variance.