Health virtual reality startups BehaVR and OxfordVR merge –

Two virtual reality startups operating in the health category – BehaVR and OxfordVR – have agreed to pool their efforts in the development of digital therapeutics (DTx) for mental illness via merger.

The combined company will operate under the BehaVR brand, and began operations with a $13 million cash injection from Series B financing led by Oxford Science Enterprises and Optum Ventures with participation from Confluent Health, Accenture Ventures, Chrysalis Ventures, and Thornton Capital.

According to the two companies, the new BehaVR will offer “the largest VR delivery platform for evidence-based digital behavioral therapy.” It will be led by BehaVR founder and chief executive Aaron Gani, and its leadership team will also feature OxfordVR founder Dr Daniel Freeman.

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BehaVR is working on a VR-enabled DTx for anxiety, stress, pain, and addiction, based on biometrics and machine learning, and this will complement the OxfordVR pipeline led by gameChange, a virtual psychological therapy designed to provide active training to people with psychosis to help . they manage anxieties associated with everyday life.

gameChange was tested in the largest ever randomized controlled trial of VR mental health, with results published in The Lancet Psychiatry, and is currently being used in several NHS mental health services. In June, OxfordVR received FDA breakthrough device designation for its gameChange.

The company has also conducted one of the biggest trials of the VR approach to treat the fear of heights, in which 100 people with phobia spanning decades were randomly allocated either automatic VR therapy or no treatment. All participants in the VR group showed a reduction in their fear of heights, with an average reduction of 68%.

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OxfordVR CEO Deepak Gopalakrishna said the digital approach to mental health management is at “a critical inflection point, where the onus will be on companies to bring evidence-based, clinically validated treatments to patients that providers, payers, and employers can trust.”

He added that the merger “brings together two leading organizations that are pioneering this work and will allow us to accelerate that future.”

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Meanwhile, BehaVR has partnered with Japan’s Sumitomo Pharma to develop and commercialize DTx for social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder in a $163 million alliance announced last year.

It is thought to be one of the largest collaborations involving digital health and pharmaceutical companies in the DTx category.

“Demand for mental health services far outstrips available resources. Providers need help, and that help is available now through clinically validated and evidence-based digital programs,” Gani said.

“In bringing together two innovative virtual reality therapy teams, we are positioned to serve a large patient population at a time of greatest need.”


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