Oxford VR, the UK developer of virtual reality therapy, has secured a £10 million Series A round led by Optum Ventures with support from Luminous Ventures. The startup aims to transform mental healthcare by expanding access and easing strain on overloaded providers. Oxford VR (OVR) has translated evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy to an immersive virtual reality program. Individuals put on a headset and enter VR simulations of the situations that trigger their symptoms. Throughout treatment, individuals are asked to complete several different tasks and are coached on helpful responses. While clinical trials confirmed the best psychological intervention is delivered face-to-face by a therapist, the OVR’s approach still had “better than expected” benefits. Behavioural changes made in the VR environment translated to the real world.
Founded in 2017, OVR is a spinout from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry. The startup’s therapeutic approach is built on two decades of research by Daniel Freeman, a professor of clinical psychology at Oxford and now the Chief Clinical Officer and co-founder of OVR. Recognised as a Tech for Good enterprise, OVR provides its automated VR therapy in the UK’s National Health System and participates in other trials, such as gameChange. The NHS-funded gameChange project is the first large-scale multi-site trial to use VR therapy to treat patients with serious and complex mental health conditions. Oxford VR is running pilots outside of Europe as well. The company has partnered with AXA Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, as well as the National Mental Health Innovation Center in the US. "We believe Oxford VR's solutions will benefit those who need access to high quality, effective cognitive behavioural therapy,” said Ash Patel, a principal at Optum Ventures, who is joining the startup’s board of directors. Existing investors such as Oxford Sciences Innovation, Oxford University Innovation and GT Healthcare Capital Partners also participated in the funding round.