VR mental health companies BehaVR and OxfordVR merge, raise $13M

Steven Loeb · December 14, 2022 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/55b0

The company will be run by BehaVR founder and CEO Aaron Gani

BehaVR is a platform that is pioneering a new way to approach mental health: creating digital therapeutics for using virtual reality. The company takes therapeutic techniques that are evidence-based, proven and studied in the analog world and translating them into multi sensory VR based experiences.

The company's mission is to look, understand, and intervene in a way that's scalable with digital therapeutics to improve mental and behavioral health, while also driving overall health. Now, BehaVR will be able to go even deeper as the company announced on Tuesday that it is merging with OxfordVR, a UK-based developer of virtual reality therapy. 

No financial terms of the deal were disclosed but the combined company will be led by BehaVR founder and CEO Aaron Gani, who's leadership team will include psychiatrist, researcher and author Dr. Daniel Freeman, PhD, co-founder of OxfordVR.

Founded in 2016, OxfordVR, a spin out from the University of Oxford, has a product called gameChange, which automate psychological therapy in a virtual environment. It was recently granted FDA Breakthrough Device designation. 

"The experience is designed for patients who are suffering from challenging psychological conditions like psychosis through automated cognitive-behavioral VR therapy," Gani explained to VatorNews.

"Part of what makes gameChange such a powerful tool is the fact that it can either be delivered by clinical staff, peer group members, or directly in the home. Users are guided by a virtual coach instead of a real-life therapist, which allows the treatment to reach so many more patients."

BehaVR's platform is multi-sensory stimulation, meaning it replaces the visual and auditory input streams. Patients can be calmed by being put into soothing nature environments or experiences, or they can be put into an exposure therapy scene which is intended to arouse and challenge them. By putting them into a simulation with some intention, the company seeks to activate these neural processes that are useful for working through these well understood therapeutic techniques. 

Aside from the fact that the two companies have long admired each other’s work, as Gani noted, they also share a highly complementary breadth of products and expertise, with products that have a lot of synergy in their clinical design and product development methodologies.

"This platform and suite of therapeutics will fill a significant market gap that no other players are equipped to address: interventions across the full mental and behavioral health spectrum, architected on a common platform with predictive modeling for dynamic experiential changes, and the ability to redesign care delivery in the context of alternative payment models through automated therapeutic experiences that are interoperable and integrated with clinical practice and workflow," he said.

On top of that, the combined product pipeline will cover a vast range of clinical indications, including the mental and behavioral health conditions most comorbid with chronic diseases.

"The combined company is creating the first comprehensive, cross-acuity platform for VR-based therapeutic interventions for mental and behavioral health needs like depression, anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain and substance abuse disorder. For enterprises this essentially creates a one-stop shop to address the full spectrum of needs," said Gani.

Along with the mergers, well as a $13 million in Series B funding led by Optum Ventures and  Oxford Science Enterprises, with participation from Confluent HealthAccenture Ventures, Chrysalis Ventures, and Thornton Capital. OxfordVR has previously raised $17.2 million in venture capital, and this funding round brings their combined total to around $50 million. 

This latest funding will be used to help BehaVR advance its pipeline, as well as other key priorities, including platform and interoperability work.

Ultimately, Gani explained, the plan it to build and commercialize a suite of solutions across the acuity spectrum, which can be deployed via healthcare enterprises as individual products or as a suite of solutions to address a broader patient population. 

"Together, BehaVR and OxfordVR have an opportunity to address a growing gap between demand for mental healthcare and our capacity to deliver effective virtual treatments to millions of people. BehaVR’s go-to-market strategy includes the development and commercialization of both FDA-cleared DTx treatments as well as general wellness applications," he said.

"We’re currently pursuing FDA-clearance for two products addressing opioid use and social anxiety. Today’s news adds Oxford VR’s product for addressing schizophrenia, for which OxfordVR was granted an FDA Breakthrough Device, to the mix."

(Image source: behavr.com)

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