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In a recent article [Bieler et al. , J. Chem. Theory Comput.10, 3006–3022 (2014)], we introduced a combination of the λ-dynamics (λD) approach for calculating alchemical free-energy differences and of the local-elevation umbrella-sampling (LEUS) memory-based biasing method to enhance the sampling along the alchemical coordinate. The combined scheme, referred to as λ-LEUS, was applied to the perturbation of hydroquinone to benzene in water as a test system, and found to represent an improvement over thermodynamic integration (TI) in terms of sampling efficiency at equivalent accuracy. However, the preoptimization of the biasing potential required in the λ-LEUS method requires “filling up” all the basins in the potential of mean force. This introduces a non-productive pre-sampling time that is system-dependent, and generally exceeds the corresponding equilibration time in a TI calculation. In this letter, a remedy is proposed to this problem, termed the slow growth memory guessing (SGMG) approach. Instead of initializing the biasing potential to zero at the start of the preoptimization, an approximate potential of mean force is estimated from a short slow growth calculation, and its negative used to construct the initial memory. Considering the same test system as in the preceding article, it is shown that of the application of SGMG in λ-LEUS permits to reduce the preoptimization time by about a factor of four.


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