A new partnership between BehaVR, a U.S. therapeutic virtual reality company, and Japan-based Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co., Ltd. will focus on developing general and prescription digital therapeutics (PDTs) for common mental health conditions. The collaboration will expand BehaVR’s neurological VR therapies for mood disorders through Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma’s expertise in developing and marketing novel prescriptions.

In response to a worldwide shortage of access to high-quality mental health care, the partners intend to pursue FDA clearance for three PDTs targeting social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and major depressive disorder. These solutions use VR technology and gamification to provide evidence based-protocols that prevent, treat, and help manage anxiety symptoms, either as a standalone approach or in combination with medication and other treatments.

BehaVR’s current therapeutic offerings use a proprietary protocol known as stress, anxiety, and fear extinction (S.A.F.E.) that builds coping skills and long-term resiliency skills. Individuals enter a digital world designed to activate the neurological processes involved in learning through a state of play. These interactive virtual experiences help retrain the brain’s response to anxiety triggers. This stimulates neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to change in response to new encounters. New memories are formed around healthier responses to stressful triggers, and these healthier responses carry over into real-life situations.

Worldwide, roughly 246 million people suffered from depression, and 374 million have an anxiety disorder in 2021. That’s an increase of 28% and 26% respectfully over estimates made before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. FDA clearance would pave the way for the new PDTs to qualify for insurance and Medicare coverage. That could significantly lower the cost of VR treatment in the US and increase affordable access in other parts of the world. As partners, Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and BehaVR are poised to stand out as leaders in addressing a growing mental health crisis.