Oxford VR, a spinout from the University of Oxford, has secured £3.2m.
Investors in the startup included Oxford Sciences Innovation, University of Oxford, Force Over Mass, RT Capital and GT Healthcare Capital Partners.
Oxford VR will use the cash to bolster growth and bring automated immersive, clinically validated VR technologies to market.
The company’s first product, an automated VR treatment for height phobia, was tested this year in a large randomised controlled trial and the treatment is now being used in selected NHS clinics.
“Our focus is on developing clinically validated, cost-effective, user-centred treatments for clinical conditions with significant impact on patients, the health system and wider economy. That means targeting complex conditions such as psychosis and social anxiety,” said Barnaby Perks, CEO of Oxford VR.
“I am delighted to lead a company that will transform mental health for millions by combining state-of-the-art immersive technology with world-class science from the University of Oxford. Professor Daniel Freeman’s research, combined with the advent of highly immersive consumer VR, means that Oxford VR can develop treatments that are faster and more effective than traditional treatments, significantly cheaper for health services to deploy, and – crucially – engaging and entertaining for users.”
Professor Daniel Freeman, chief clinical officer of Oxford VR, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford and consultant clinical psychologist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Instead of a real-life therapist, we used a computer-generated avatar to guide users through a cognitive treatment program for fear of heights. On average, people spent around two hours in VR over five treatment sessions. Everyone in the VR group saw their fear of heights diminish, with the average reduction being 68%. Half of the participants in the VR group had a reduction in fear of heights of over three quarters. These are amazing results: better, in fact, than could be expected with the best psychological intervention from a real-life therapist.”
David Norwood, co-founder of Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), went on to explain why he backed the company: “Mental health problems are incredibly common, debilitating, and costly to society. Yet only a fraction of the people who need them have access to the treatments that work. We believe Oxford VR can make a huge contribution here, dramatically improving the lives of millions of people around the world. OSI is proud to have been involved from day one and we look forward to helping the company achieve long-term, lasting success.”