Two virtual reality startups operating in the health field – BehaVR and OxfordVR – have agreed to join efforts on the development of digital therapies (DTx) for mental illnesses via a merger.
The combined company will operate under the BehaVR brand and start operations with a cash injection of $13 million 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 DTxes for anxiety, stress, pain and addiction, based on biometrics and machine learning, and these will complement OxfordVR’s pipeline led by gameChangea virtual psychological therapy designed to provide active support to people with psychosis to help them manage the anxieties associated with daily life.
gameChange was tested in the largest randomized controlled trial of mental health in virtual reality ever, with the results published in The Lancet Psychiatry, and is now used in some NHS mental health services. In June, OxfordVR received Breakthrough Device Designation from the FDA 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 automated 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%.
OxfordVR CEO Deepak Gopalakrishna said digital approaches to mental health management are at a “critical inflection point, where it will be up to companies to bring evidence-based and clinically-based treatments to patients. validated that providers, payers and employers can confidently support.”
He added that the merger “brings together two of the leading pioneering organizations in this work and will allow us to accelerate this future”.
BehaVR, meanwhile, has partnered with Japanese Sumitomo Pharma to develop and commercialize DTx for social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder as part of a $163 million alliance unveiled last year.
It is believed 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, evidence-based digital programs,” said Gani.
“By bringing together two innovative therapeutic teams in virtual reality, we are positioned to serve the widest range of patient populations possible at a time of great need.”