Large-Scale Domain-Specific Pretraining for Biomedical Vision-Language Processing

Contrastive pretraining on parallel image-text data has attained great success in vision-language processing (VLP), as exemplified by CLIP and related methods. However, prior explorations tend to focus on general domains in the web. Biomedical images and text are rather different, but publicly available datasets are small and skew toward chest X-ray, thus severely limiting progress. In this paper, we conducted by far the largest study on biomedical VLP, using 15 million figure-caption pairs extracted from biomedical research articles in PubMed Central. Our dataset (PMC-15M) is two orders of magnitude larger than existing biomedical image-text datasets such as MIMIC-CXR, and spans a diverse range of biomedical images. The standard CLIP method is suboptimal for the biomedical domain. We propose BiomedCLIP with domain-specific adaptations tailored to biomedical VLP. We conducted extensive experiments and ablation studies on standard biomedical imaging tasks from retrieval to classification to visual question-answering (VQA). BiomedCLIP established new state of the art in a wide range of standard datasets, substantially outperformed prior VLP approaches. Surprisingly, BiomedCLIP even outperformed radiology-specific state-of-the-art models such as BioViL on radiology-specific tasks such as RSNA pneumonia detection, thus highlighting the utility in large-scale pretraining across all biomedical image types. We will release our models at to facilitate future research in biomedical VLP.

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