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29 Apr 2019

CUHK, AXA Hong Kong and Oxford VR announce first-of-its-kind clinical research in mental health in Asia using VR enabled immersive therapy

29 Apr 2019

Professor Fanny Cheung, Pro-Vice-Chancellor / Vice-President of CUHK (left), Gordon Watson, Chief Executive Officer of AXA Asia (middle) and Barnaby Perks, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford VR (right) sign the contract today to start Asia’s first partnership for mental wellbeing using immersive VR

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), AXA Hong Kong and Oxford VR (OVR) announced an agreement today on a first-of-a-kind partnership to pilot a groundbreaking automated immersive therapy using virtual reality (VR) for mental health in Asia including the Greater Bay Area.

The pilot focuses on a jointly supported clinically-validated trial in Hong Kong using a modern VR technology platform for managing common mental health issues, such as social avoidance, anxiety and depressive symptoms, in people’s daily lives and work.

In Asia, there is generally a high level of stigma surrounding mental wellbeing, resulting from a lack of awareness and education. There is also a lack of resources and a trained workforce to cater for mental health needs. Enabling widespread and easy access to effective new solutions has never been more critical.

This partnership brings together CUHK’s outstanding reputation for academic excellence and research, AXA Hong Kong’s unique understanding of the Asian healthcare market and Oxford VR’s world-class clinical expertise in developing psychological therapies using immersive technology.

Professor Fanny Cheung, Pro-Vice-Chancellor / Vice-President of CUHK, said, “With over 30 years of history, CUHK Department of Psychology has gained a leading position in various psychological research areas, especially those related to cross-cultural and Chinese psychology.  Our globally-recognised comprehensive curriculum and teaching methods that keep pace with the times have made possible outstanding achievements for us in teaching and research over the years. We are delighted to establish a collaboration with AXA Hong Kong and Oxford VR that integrates scientific research with innovative technology and training of talents in service delivery, to provide a new solution to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. I hope that this collaboration can contribute to the promotion of global mental health.”

“AXA’s strategy is to transform from payer to partner to our customers,” said Gordon Watson, Chief Executive Officer of AXA Asia. “Our customers are telling us they want to have easier access to expertise and support for their mental wellbeing. We know the technology from Oxford VR works as it is already used in the UK National Health Service. AXA is proud to bring this technology to Hong Kong and Asia. Not only will we provide educational awareness on the topic and improve access to psychological services, but the partnership with CUHK will build the research evidence to advance care for common mental health conditions worldwide. This is a clear demonstration of our strategy coming to life by engaging professional stakeholders and offering innovative solutions to promote people’s wellbeing in Asia.”

“We are delighted to announce this partnership with CUHK and AXA Hong Kong as it marks an exciting breakthrough for mental wellbeing in Asia and builds on our shared vision of making effective new mental health solutions available. Ambitious action is required to tackle the growing gap between demand and supply in mental healthcare. This is a solution whose time has come and demonstrates our commitment to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based automated immersive therapy in mental healthcare by fostering relationships between academia and industry,” said Barnaby Perks, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford VR.

A variety of specially-designed scenarios will be developed for this clinically-verified trial. These scenarios will be offered in both English and Cantonese.

The pilot will involve the recruitment of the public to participate in the trial and is expected to be completed next year.  Programme details will be announced at the upcoming launch in June.

About CUHK

Founded in 1963, CUHK is a leading comprehensive research university with a global reputation. Located in the heart of Asia, CUHK has a vision and a mission to combine tradition with modernity, and to bring together China and the West.  Under the University’s unique collegiate system, the programmes and activities offered by its nine colleges complement the formal curricula by delivering whole-person education and pastoral care. The University has eight faculties: Arts, Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Science, and Social Science. Together with the Graduate School, the University offers over 300 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. All faculties are actively engaged in research in a wide range of disciplines, with an array of research institutes and research centres specialising in interdisciplinary research of the highest quality.

CUHK is recognised as the most innovative university in Hong Kong and is ranked 22nd in the Asia-Pacific region by the latest ‘Reuters: Asia Pacific’s Most Innovative Universities’ listing. The University currently has more than 900 granted patents in different jurisdictions worldwide. Some of these patents have been licensed to relevant industries that help bring these innovations to the market to benefit society. In the academic year 2017-18, CUHK has received 185 granted patents and filed 327 patent applications for inventions developed in the areas of medical technology, biotechnology, information technology, telecommunications, and materials science.

About AXA Hong Kong and Macau

AXA Hong Kong and Macau, a member of the AXA Group, prides itself on serving over 1 million customers[1] in the region. In addition to being the #1 global Property & Casualty commercial lines insurer[2], it has also been the #1 insurance brand worldwide for 10 consecutive years[3]. In Hong Kong and Macau, AXA is one of the top medical insurance providers and No. 1 in corporate medical insurance.

As an innovative insurer, AXA Hong Kong and Macau leverages on Big Data and AI to transform the customer experience end-to-end, making insurance simpler and more personal. It continues to drive innovation notably in health and protection, supporting customers in prevention, treatment and recovery.

About OVR

Oxford VR is pioneering the adoption of clinically-validated automated immersive technology applications in mental healthcare transforming patient lives and the mental health experience.

Founded in 2017, Oxford VR (OVR) develops and delivers clinically-validated digital therapeutics pushing the boundaries to deliver innovative new treatments for mental health conditions. Oxford VR’s evidence-based, protocolised treatment scenarios trigger the same psychological and physiological responses as in real-life, yet patients know they are safe and secure in a virtual world.

A spin-out from Oxford University, Oxford VR is built on the ground-breaking work of co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer Daniel Freeman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University and Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

 [1] Including customers of AXA China Region Insurance Company Limited, AXA China Region Insurance Company (Bermuda) Limited (incorporated in Bermuda with limited liability), and AXA General Insurance Hong Kong Limited [2] AXA Corporate Solutions, AXA Matrix Risk Consultants, AXA Insurance Company, and AXA Art with AXA XL’s insurance and reinsurance operations combined [3] Interbrand Best Global Brand 2018 (By brand value)

Professor Fanny Cheung, Pro-Vice-Chancellor / Vice-President of CUHK (left), Gordon Watson, Chief Executive Officer of AXA Asia (middle) and Barnaby Perks, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford VR (right) sign the contract today to start Asia’s first partnership for mental wellbeing using immersive VR

Professor Fanny Cheung, Pro-Vice-Chancellor / Vice-President of CUHK (left), Gordon Watson, Chief Executive Officer of AXA Asia (middle) and Barnaby Perks, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford VR (right) sign the contract today to start Asia’s first partnership for mental wellbeing using immersive VR


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