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Re-envisioning mental health treatment using clinical VR

Skip Rizzo, PhD, research director for medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative
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Skip Rizzo, PhD, research director for medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies (USC ICT), tells us how its virtual reality (VR) therapy BRAVEMIND is changing PTSD treatment and how pharma can leverage clinical VR.

“There’s a strong evidence base for VR applications in many areas, but it’s also breaking down barriers to care. The value lies in drawing people into treatment, therapy, or wellness and getting them to do things they wouldn’t do in a traditional talk therapy setting,” Skip says.

The World Health Organization estimates 600 million people worldwide have mental health conditions, but only one-third will see the inside of a therapy office.

Implementing clinical VR can improve access and availability of treatment and destigmatise mental illness, but more research still needs to be done.

BRAVEMIND

Clinical research in VR as a treatment for PTSD was accelerated in 2004 when an epidemiological study of PTSD was published, noting the rise in cases among veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Skip says this paper was a “call to arms” to find improved treatment methods.

The year prior, USC ICT partnered with a game development company to build Full Spectrum Warrior, a serious game for the US Army to train service members. The Xbox game was a combat tactical simulation that resembled the streets of Iraq.

“I was able to get access to some of the art assets from Full Spectrum Warrior and build out an exposure therapy application for PTSD with a programmer who previously built a virtual Vietnam scenario,” Skip states.

BRAVEMIND, a clinical VR experience designed to deliver the evidence-based practice of exposure therapy was then developed to prevent, assess, and treat PTSD. Initially, four worlds were available, one of which was a generic middle eastern city.

In VR exposure therapy, the theoretical model remained unchanged from traditional talk therapy approaches, with the goal to help patients confront and reprocess difficult emotional memory, but in the safety of a well-trained clinician’s office.

“Clinicians can control the stimulus presentation in VR allowing for the progression of more provocative experiences designed to pace exposure with the end goal of promoting extinction learning and subsequent fear/anxiety reduction,” says Skip.

In late 2006, BRAVEMIND was tested in San Diego, California, at the Naval Medical Center and Camp Pendleton, and good clinical data was obtained in the initial open clinical trials. Other groups started to adopt the platform, which led to more research as to its clinical efficacy.

In 2012, the team obtained funding to update BRAVEMIND with more current software and build out the system based on what ICT learned from clinician reports.

Clinicians requested additional environments, such as an Afghan village or a forward operating base in the mountains with incoming mortars based on their patients’ experiences.

The next version of BRAVEMIND expanded to 14 different worlds, and in 2019 the nonprofit organisation, Soldier Strong, requested to support the free distribution of BRAVEMIND to any VA facility that wanted to implement this therapy.

In all, BRAVEMIND has been distributed to 120 places.

VR clinical trials

As the distribution of BRAVEMIND increases, so does the amount of data USC ICT collect to improve its experience, and clinical trials provide even more insight.

In a recent trial, researchers compared exposure therapy using VR to traditional exposure therapy with combat vets. Although the results did not substantially differ, Skip says some findings were surprising.

“We have good therapists, and both groups showed good clinical outcomes. It was essentially equivalent except for a pre-planned prediction.”

“We anticipated people with comorbid depression would do better in VR. It’s hard to activate them to engage in their trauma memory with traditional methods, and that was, in fact, the case,” Skip states.

“We also informed participants on the front end that we’d randomly assign them to either VR treatment or traditional therapy, and we asked, ‘if you had your choice of treatment types, which would you prefer?’ Across three study sites, 77% of participants picked VR.”

Even participants who chose VR but were assigned the traditional treatment method did well. Therefore, their preference didn’t predict the outcome.

However, it does make a case for breaking down barriers and providing VR as a digital option as more participants wanted to use that format.

There is still a great deal of research to be done in clinical VR, but evaluating how medications work in conjunction with VR exposure therapy may be a significant next step.

“That’s where the next generation of research has to be,” Skip states. “Does medication impact VR therapy outcomes? And does it matter how long somebody has been on medication?”

How pharma can leverage VR

Pharma can also utilise VR technology to aid in their research, such as testing new medications for children with ADHD.

Skip created a virtual classroom to test children with ADHD and is now working with a company that collects data with this application to support the path to FDA approval.

“Controlled stimulus environments are an ideal way to test the impact of a medication,” Skip says.

“Kids can be in the virtual classroom setting, and we can gather data points not just on cognitive performance, but also head and body movements to assess their hyperactivity.”

“We can also include a virtual human acting confrontational and see how anxiety or anger levels increase.”

A virtual human is a character that talks to users and engages with them. It can remind one to take their medicine or perform cognitive behavioural exercises.

“Virtual humans could be a way to engage people regularly that could complement the pharmaceutical approach to extending care.”

Open research questions exist with clinical VR, but treatment for various conditions is already being explored, such as PTSD among COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers and police officers and measuring improvements in one’s range of motion in a rehab context.

“It would be a positive branding move for pharmaceutical companies to partner with VR entities because the public is favourable towards the idea of taking medications in combination therapy with psychological intervention,” Skip states.

About the interviewee         

Albert “Skip” Rizzo is a clinical psychologist and director of medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies. He is also a research professor with the USC Dept. of Psychiatry and at the USC Davis School of Gerontology. Over the last 25 years, Skip has conducted research on the design, development and evaluation of virtual reality systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment and intervention across the domains of psychological, cognitive and motor functioning in both healthy and clinical populations. This work has focused on PTSD, TBI, Autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other clinical conditions. Despite the diversity of these clinical R&D areas, the common thread that drives all his work with digital technologies involves the study of how interactive and immersive Virtual Reality simulations can be usefully applied to address human healthcare needs beyond what is possible with traditional 20th Century tools and methods. To view some videos of this work, please visit this YouTube channel.

About the author 

Jessica Hagen is a freelance life sciences and health writer and project manager who has worked with VR health companies, fiction/nonfiction authors, nonprofit and for-profit organisations, and government entities.

The post Re-envisioning mental health treatment using clinical VR appeared first on .

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Spread & Containment

TV Show Mysteriously Deletes Poll After Vast Majority Oppose Mandatory Vaccination

TV Show Mysteriously Deletes Poll After Vast Majority Oppose Mandatory Vaccination

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A major morning television show in the UK deleted a Twitter poll asking if vaccines should be made mandatory..

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TV Show Mysteriously Deletes Poll After Vast Majority Oppose Mandatory Vaccination

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A major morning television show in the UK deleted a Twitter poll asking if vaccines should be made mandatory after the results showed that 89% of respondents oppose compulsory shots.

Yes, really.

Good Morning Britain, which often tries to set the news agenda, posted the poll which asked the public, “With Omicron cases doubling every two days, is it time to make vaccines mandatory?”

The last screenshots Twitter users were able to obtain before the poll was wiped showed 89% oppose mandatory vaccinations, with just 11% in favor after a total of over 42,000 votes.

People demanded to know why the poll had been pulled, although it wasn’t exactly hard to guess.

Why did you delete this poll, is it because you were asked? Or because it shows the people don’t support this s**t, this tyrannical future your colleagues seem to want. We see you,” commented one respondent.

“Guess that wasn’t the answer they were looking for,” remarked another.

Good Morning Britain has failed to explain why it removed the poll.

However, it’s unsurprising given that the broadcast has been a vehicle for pushing pro-lockdown messaging since the start of the pandemic.

For most of that time, it was hosted by Piers Morgan, an aggressive proponent of lockdowns, mandatory vaccines and face masks.

The show also regularly features Dr. Hillary Jones, someone who at the start of the pandemic warned that face masks could make the spread of the virus worse, before getting the memo and doing a complete 180.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Thu, 12/09/2021 - 03:30

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Science

Life Sciences Expansions Take Off as 2021 Wraps Up

Several life sciences companies and life science-focused real estate firms announced expansion plans as 2021 comes to an end.

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Life Sciences Expansions Take Off as 2021 Wraps Up

Several life sciences companies and life science-focused real estate firms have announced expansion plans as 2021 comes to an end. Here’s a look.

Novavax to Expand Maryland Campus

Novavax, on the cusp of getting its COVID-19 vaccine authorized in numerous countries around the world, is expanding its footprint in Gaithersburg, Md., where it is headquartered. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to authorize the company’s vaccine soon, and so is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Czechia has already ordered 370,000 doses, with deliveries expected at the beginning of 2022. The company also has a deal with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies to manufacture millions of doses of the Novavax vaccines at its facilities in Billingham, U.K., with a £400 million investment in expansion.

Four Corners Acquired 150,000-Square-Foot Complex in Belmont, Calif.

Four Corners Properties acquired a 150,000-square-foot office building in Belmont, Calif., called the Shoreway Innovation Center. The seller was Westlake Group. Westlake bought it in 2016 for $61 million. The company plans to expand its use for life sciences, noting that 82% of it is currently leased to a mix of tenants with an average of less than three years lease term remaining.

“Shoreway Innovation Center offers the opportunity to bring office and life sciences space to a market where tenant demand is far outpacing available supply,” said Mike Taquino, executive vice president of CBRE’s Northern California Capital Markets team.

Genentech Leases Building Under Construction in South San Francisco

Source: BioSpace

Boston Properties and Alexandria Real Estate Equities are leasing a building under construction in South San Francisco to Genentech. It will be the first phase of a life sciences campus. The building is at 751 Gateway and is 229,000 square feet. The campus will be called Gateway Commons and is a joint venture between the two real estate firms. They expect initial occupancy toward the end of 2024. Genentech has been headquartered in South San Francisco for forty years, with a large corporate headquarters made up of 4.7 million square feet of five neighborhood hubs. The new site is about one mile’s distance from their main campus.

Mispro Biotech to Open New Facility in North Carolina in Early 2022

Mispro Biotech Services plans to open a new facility in Research Triangle Park (RTP), N.C., in early 2022. Mispro is a leading contract vivarium organization (CVO). The new facility, a full-service vivarium research facility, will be central to one of RTP’s biopark campuses.

“Since we first opened our doors here in 2013, we have seen incredible growth in the RTP cluster,” said Philippe Lamarre, chief executive officer of Mispro. “The time was right to expand into a new facility with more space and modern amenities where we can support the influx of biotechs who are seeking in vivo lab space.”

Laura Gunter, president of NCBIO, representing the life sciences industry in North Carolina, noted, “Mispro has become a cornerstone of the Triangle ecosystem as contract research and support companies are finding increased favor. Biotechs of all sizes and therapeutic disciplines are focusing more on their core competencies, which is opening the door to innovation like Mispro’s contract vivarium option. We are pleased to see their decision to expand here and support more North Carolina companies.”

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/life-science-companies-announce-expansion-plans-as-they-wrap-up-2021

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Government

Over 170 companies delisted from major U.S. stock exchanges in 12 months

  Over the years, United States-based exchanges have remained an attractive destination for most companies aiming to go public. With businesses jostling to join the trading platforms, the exchanges have also delisted a significant number of companies….

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Over the years, United States-based exchanges have remained an attractive destination for most companies aiming to go public. With businesses jostling to join the trading platforms, the exchanges have also delisted a significant number of companies.

According to data acquired by Finbold, a total of 179 companies have been delisted from the major United States exchanges between 2020 and 2021. In 2021, the number of companies on Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands at 6,000, dropping 2.89% from last year’s figure of 6,179. In 2019, the listed companies stood at 5,454.

NYSE recorded the highest delisting with companies on the platform, dropping 15.28% year-over-year from 2,873 to 2,434. Elsewhere, Nasdaq listed companies grew 7.86% from 3,306 to 3,566. Data on the number of listed companies on NASDAQ and NYSE is provided by The World Federation of Exchanges.

The delisting of the companies is potentially guided by basic factors such as violating listing regulations and failing to meet minimum financial standards like the inability to maintain a minimum share price, financial ratios, and sales levels. Additionally, some companies might opt for voluntary delisting motivated by the desire to trade on other exchanges.

Furthermore, the delisting on U.S. major exchanges might be due to the emergence of new alternative markets, especially in Asia. China and Hong Kong markets have become more appealing, with regulators making local listings more attractive. Over the years, exchanges in the region have strived to emerge as key players amid dominance by U.S. equity markets. As per a previous report, the U.S. controls 56% of the global stock market value.

A significant portion of the delisted companies also stems from the regulatory perspective pitting U.S. agencies and their Chinese counterparts. For instance, China Mobile Ltd, China Unicom, and China Telecom Corp announced their delisting from NYSE, citing investment restrictions dating from 2020.

Worth noting is that the delisting of firms was initiated due to strict measures put in place by the Trump administration. The current administration has left the regulations in place while proposing additional regulations. For instance, a recent regulation update by the Securities Exchange Commission requiring US-listed Chinese companies to disclose their ownership structure has led to the exit of cab-hailing company Didi from the NYSE.

Impact of pandemic on the listing of companies

The delisting also comes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that resulted in economic turmoil. With the shutdown of the economy, most companies entered into bankruptcies as the stock market crashed to historical lows.

Lower stock prices translate to less wealth for businesses, pension funds, and individual investors, and listed companies could not get the much-needed funding for their normal operations.

At the same time, the focus on more companies going public over the last year can be highlighted by firms on the Nasdaq exchange. Worth noting is that in 2020, there was tremendous growth in special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), mainly driven by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. With the uncertainty of raising money through the traditional means, SPACs found a perfect role to inject more funds into capital-starving companies to go public.

From the data, foreign companies listing in the United States have grown steadily, with the business aiming to leverage the benefits of operating in the country. Notably, listing on U.S. exchanges guarantees companies liquidity and high potential to raise capital. Furthermore, listing on either NYSE or Nasdaq comes with the needed credibility to attract more investors. The companies are generally viewed as a home for established, respected, and successful global companies.

In general, over the past year, factors like the pandemic have altered the face of stock exchanges to some point threatening the continued dominance of major U.S. exchanges. Tensions between the US and China are contributing to the crisis which will eventually impact the number of listed companies.

 

Courtesy of Finbold.

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