Health virtual reality startups BehaVR and OxfordVR merge –

Health virtual reality startups BehaVR and OxfordVR merge –

Two virtual reality startups working in the health category – BehaVR and OxfordVR – have agreed to combine their efforts on developing digital therapeutics (DTx) for mental illnesses through a merger.

The combined company will operate under the BehaVR brand, and began operations with a $13 million cash injection from a Series B funding 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 therapies.” It will be led by BehaVR founder and CEO Aaron Gani, and its leadership team will also include OxfordVR founder Dr Daniel Freeman.

BehaVR is working on VR-enabled DTx for anxiety, stress, pain and addiction, based on biometrics and machine learning, and will complement OxfordVR’s pipeline led by gameChange, a virtual psychological therapy designed to provide active coaching to people with psychosis to help them cope with anxiety related to daily life.

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

The company also conducted one of the largest trials of a VR approach to treating fear of heights, in which 100 people with a phobia dating back decades were randomly assigned either automated VR therapy or no treatment. All participants in the VR group showed a reduction in their fear of heights, with the average reduction being 68%.

Deepak Gopalakrishna, chief executive of OxfordVR, said digital approaches to managing mental health are 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 have confidence in can stand.”

He added that the merger “brings together two of the leading organizations doing this work and will enable us to accelerate that future.”

BehaVR, meanwhile, 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 unveiled last year.

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

“The demand for mental health services far exceeds the available resources. Providers need help, and that help is available today through our clinically validated and evidence-based digital programs,” said Gani.

“By bringing together two innovative virtual reality therapeutic teams, we are positioned to serve the widest variety of patient populations possible at a time of intense need.”

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