August 7, 2020 – BehaVR, a provider of virtual reality (VR) digital wellness and digital therapeutics experiences, has this week announced that it has begun a new partnership aimed at leveraging VR experiences to address unmet needs in social anxiety disorder (SAD), a mental health condition.
The company has entered into a new joint development and collaboration agreement with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co., Ltd. to create a general wellness product that uses VR to assist in the management of SAD. BehaVR will partner with Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, in developing the product for use in the United States.
“Decades of research have shown that VR is a powerful way to augment traditional cognitive behavioral therapies — including exposure, arousal reduction, active coping, and emotion regulation — which are often used to treat SAD,” said Dr. Peter Buecker, Chief Medical Officer of BehaVR. “BehaVR’s technology platform expands on VR’s capability, using real-time biometrics and machine learning to personalize the experience. We believe this offers new possibilities in addressing SAD, and we are excited to explore these possibilities and ultimately bring to market a product that has the potential to change the lives of millions.”
BehaVR noted that, according to the Social Anxiety Association, social anxiety disorder is the “third largest mental health condition in the world today”. An intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others, social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is often characterized by rapid heart rate, trembling, sweating, feeling nauseous and having difficulty speaking or being around other people.
“Virtual reality has the potential to make good care and management for social anxiety disorder more accessible to people around the world,” said Aaron Gani, founder and CEO of BehaVR. “Many with SAD do not receive any support in managing their condition because there is a shortage of behavioral health professionals where they live, they cannot afford it, or their previous attempts at treatment haven’t worked.”
The product that BehaVR and Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma are creating, which the companies state is “Grounded in neuroscience and behavioral health research”, will use VR to target the chronic activation source of stress or anxiety and provide personalized education content, active coping skills training, and behavioral reinforcements inside a dynamic experience. It will also provide clinicians visibility into patient progress, as well as integration with other clinical systems, such as EMRs, and telehealth platforms, according to BehaVR.
“This is a truly exciting time,” said Walter Greenleaf, Ph.D., of Stanford University and Chair of BehaVR’s Scientific Advisory Board. “With the convergence of technologies today, we are now able to make accurate and objective assessments of an individual’s mood state and cognitive function, instead of relying on inaccurate, subjective self-reported measurements. This approach allows us to develop new and powerful therapies that will provide effective solutions for any number of behavioral and mental health issues.”
BehaVR stated that it expects the product will come to market in the US in 2022. For more information on the company, please click here.
Image credit: BehaVR