Hamburg-based startup Sympatient, creator of a virtual reality-based psychotherapy treatment for anxiety disorders, has raised €1.6 million in seed funding. The round was led by investiere and joined by Investitions- und Förderbank Hamburg IFB and business angels. The health tech company claims to offer the world’s first CE-certified digital anxiety therapy that works at home. Using virtual reality technology and an app, the product — Invirto — offers exposure therapy for social phobia, agoraphobia and panic disorders. Patients run the virtual reality content on their smartphones; Sympatient provides an additional device and headphones. The treatment also includes several hours of psychotherapy that is delivered by videos, texts and audio file. “Invirto can help millions of patients worldwide cope with their anxieties, can help therapists treat their patients, and reduce costs for the health system,” says Michael Lütolf, an investment manager at investiere. The market for such forms of anxiety is about 5 million patients in Germany, where Invirto is already reimbursed by the largest health insurance company, Techniker Krankenkasse. The product is also approved as a medical device for the whole of Europe, so the next steps are to partner with more clinics and practitioners who could prescribe Invirto and other health insurances that could cover the cost.
“With the funding we can expand our cooperation with therapists and health insurers to help more patients access a gold-standard therapy without the usual long waiting times,” says co-founder and CEO Christiand Angern. When asked if he fears copycats encroaching on their market, Angern replied: “We were able to certify our medical product according to the old medical device directive in Europe. A new competitor would have to not only develop their own device first, but also get it certified under the new medical device regulation, which is much more complicated. They would need to do lengthy clinical studies before they could even enter the market. Even if someone were to join the market, they would still need to reach reimbursement, which is going to be difficult in Germany, where health insurances always focus on the first mover. We have a really nice head start.”