#WeAreHEWMAN: Dallas Citizen Science Effort Crowdsources Gamers to Help End the COVID-19 Threat

BALANCED Media|Technology and Complexity Gaming have launched a citizen science effort that will test drug compounds against coronavirus. Now, the Dallas organizations are asking the video game community to join in.

While medical professionals everywhere have been hard at work for months searching for a cure to the COVID-19 virus, an unlikely industry has emerged to join the fight: the video game community.

A new effort from BALANCED Media|Technology (BALANCED) and Complexity Gaming intends to garner spare computer processing power that could help find treatments for coronavirus. The two Dallas-based organizations are encouraging anyone that works with video games to donate to the citizen science/crowdsourcing initiative called #WeAreHEWMEN.

According to BALANCED CEO Robert M. Atkins, there’s no community in the world more engaged online than gamers—that makes them the perfect group to help put an end to humanity’s biggest threat.

“If there’s one universal truth about gamers, it’s that they’re always looking for their next challenge,” Atkins said. “When they hear the call to help, they will answer. It’s the moment they’ve been training for since they booted up their first video game.”

The donation drive was modeled after BALANCED’s HEWMEN Cell application, which the company describes as a “free secure download that creates a virtual network to process drug discovery data for COVID-19.” Complexity, widely known as one of the longest standing esports orgs in the nation, is backing the application by putting out a call-to-action for the gaming community to download it.

The HEWMEN Cell app was being used by computational biologist John Wise, Ph.D., to find co-medications that could enhance chemotherapy’s effect in treating recurrent, resistant breast and prostate cancers. According to BALANCED, together with John Wise, who works in SMU’s Drug Discovery Lab, HEWMEN will be able to harness the power of gamers.

The team will have the HEWMEN Cell app process information from more than 200,000 FDA-approved medications and compounds. BALANCED said it will test those against models of the protein and enzymatic functions of COVID-19, which will show what is most effective in reducing the virus’ pathology. 

Anywhere from 1.5-3 million virtual experiments will be run using these compound variations. BALANCED said once it identifies the compounds with the highest success rate, the development timeline will be dramatically reduced, which more quickly gets new treatments to market.

BALANCED described the tech behind HEWMEN as such:

BALANCED’s HEWMEN technology creates a distributed network that processes data-driven problems such as drug discovery and medical research. The HEWMEN Cell application, which uses small amounts of volunteer computers’ unused processing capacity, has integrated BOINC, an open-source software platform used for volunteer resources developed by the University of California, Berkeley. It allows for the virtualizing of servers and applications inside a voluntary grid network and has been widely used with no security issues on millions of PCs.

HEWMEN has previously brought communities together, given hope to a child fighting cancer, analyzed medical imagery, and processed data to help make cancer treatments more effective—all by using the power of video games. HEWMEN combines the processing power of gaming computers with the intuition of actual gamers, which creates a cloud platform that allows humans and machines to work together to solve problems in new and innovative ways.

BALANCED CTO Corey Clark told us about the platform last year. He and his team combine human intelligence and machine learning that allows people and computers to work together to solve problems. Essentially, the crowdsourced healthcare company is all about bringing purpose to play. 

“HEWMEN embraces the new model for media found in video games and streaming services that engage billions of users everyday, such as YouTube, Twitch, and Mixer. This innovative platform allows individuals to unlock their problem-solving skills and stored potential found in idle computing devices,” he said. “HEWMEN has provided a new model for giving and revenue generation for communities, foundations, and developers.”

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This isn’t the first project between BALANCED and Complexity. The two partnered recently on a medical research project on Twitch Interactive for World of Warcraft’s “Race to World First.” The 10-day livestreamed tournament had participants virtually processing medical compounds for cancer medicines through gameplay.  

“As with ‘Race to World First,’ we’re proud to partner with BALANCED to showcase the power of gaming and esports within our greater global community,” Jason Lake, founder and CEO of Complexity Gaming, said in a statement. “We’re grateful to continue working with BALANCED not only to create an engaging new experience but also to be a part of something meaningful as we strive to find a solution to this global pandemic.”

Complexity, now owned by Jerry Jones, opened the doors to its new headquarters at The Star in Frisco last year.

Leading up to the opening, Complexity made a series of big moves by way of partnerships aimed at advancing the professional esports industry and bringing the video game culture to life. It’s all about a commitment to the “Esports 3.0 era,” which Complexity refers to as esports athletes being treated like professional sports athletes.

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