Dallas-based BALANCED Media|Technology is continuing to make moves during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The purpose-driven tech company recently teamed up with Complexity Gaming to garner spare computer processing power that could help find treatments for coronavirus. Anyone who works with video games was able to contribute to the citizen science initiative called #WeAreHEWMEN—and BALANCED said it quickly saw results.
Now, the team has announced closing a $3.5 million seed funding round.
A number of Dallas investors participated in the round, according to CEO Robert Atkins. That includes Dr. Bobby Lyle, who became interested after following BALANCED’s work at SMU Guildhall and the Retina Foundation of the Southwest.
Last year, an app developed by a team from SMU and nonprofit literacy provider Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) won $2.5 million in a competition hosted by the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE. Corey Clark, deputy director of research at SMU’s Guildhall and the CTO of BALANCED, led the team.
Clark has also been leading research projects that use BALANCED’s technology at SMU.
Atkins says BALANCED President Carl Lapeyrouse took the lead in managing the capital raise.
“We had great success with Carl’s history in the medical industry out of Louisiana with the raise and his passion to bring new ways for games to help educate about health,” Atkins says. “With Carl’s game the 8 CELL, we have been able to help children with cancer cope in new ways by exploring in the body and taking the fight to the diseases. We have even been able to work with Make-A-Wish to help bring this experience to the forefront as a new tool for hope and treatment.”
The capital will be used to support and grow the development team that’s building the technology for BALANCED’s HEWMEN platform and gaming interfaces, according to Atkins. HEWMEN crowdsources data within live streaming, gaming and esports.
“We are continuing to integrate our technology into live esports events with local teams like Complexity Gaming,” Atkins told Dallas Innovates. “BALANCED and Complexity won a Community Collaboration Award for the work done to support Children’s Health and Extra Life.”
By launching its technology into esports events, viewers tuning in on Twitch can help with medical research and crowdsourcing artificial intelligence and machine learning. At the same time, they’re entertained, Atkins says.
BALANCED is known for bringing purpose to play. The company uses online gaming and esports to crowdsource AI in order to unlock what the company says are “limitless possibilities.” It’s all about the power of community—the intent is to fundamentally change the way researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers leverage machine learning to advance the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
The company’s collaborative computing platform draws on the gaming community to ‘play out the problem’ through specially designed game interfaces that are embedded with real-world data, Atkins says.
The company’s coronavirus effort was modeled after BALANCED’s HEWMEN Cell application. BALANCED teamed up with Dallas-based Complexity Gaming to provide a free secure download that creates a virtual network to process drug discovery data for COVID-19.
The HEWMEN Cell app processed information from more than 200,000 FDA-approved medications and compounds, and BALANCED tested those against models of the protein and enzymatic functions of COVID-19, which will show what is most effective in reducing the virus’ pathology.
When testing the first set of compounds, the BALANCED team says it was looking for any that were capable of binding over the “spike protein.” This type of protein is what allows the SARS-CoV-2 virus to interact with the lungs, inject its genetic material, and wreak havoc on the body.
“Everyone with HEWMEN Cell installed helped us find our very first compound that fits perfectly over the spike protein,” BALANCED said in a blog post. “The compound itself is too potent to be used in large quantities in the body, but it is validation that our efforts matter and we can find compounds that can actually reduce the damage that COVID-19 is causing in our bodies.”
Looking ahead, Atkins expects the team to make new hires this year. There are currently 16 people on the BALANCED team, but he is looking to double that in the next 12 months.
“Our company still has our office in the Cotton Mill of McKinney, but most of the staff is working remotely at this time,” he says. “We are continuing our work with partners in medical, esports, and pediatric care.”
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