Half a million needed for medical device

Using a virtual reality headset to help patients manage pain has had some impressive results, but its applications are much more far-reaching. By MIKE PRESTON.

By Mike Preston

Every Tuesday ‘Money Wanted’ features a new entrepreneur or inventor showcasing their products and services.

Entrepreneurs: Colin Carbis and Joe Mastro
Industry: Health care
Based: Melbourne
Wants: $500,000
To: Expand the number of therapeutic units and their use, both here and in new markets.

To watch Virtual Medicine’s elevator pitch, click here.

The idea for virtual reality hypnosis came to Dr Colin Carbis (pictured at right) when he was sitting in huge Las Vegas cinema, totally absorbed by a 3D movie.

“It made me realise that when you take away the senses and bring people into a virtual world they will go where you take them,” Carbis says. He is a scientist and experienced practitioner of therapeutic hypnosis.

Virtual reality hypnosis (VRH) is an anxiety reduction therapy developed by Carbis and partner Joe Mastro, an IT specialist, through their company Virtual Medicine.

VRH works by immersing the patient in a therapeutic audiovisual world, Carbis says, conveyed through a headset placed over the eyes and ears. The patient is delivered into a virtual reality that they say is designed to reduce anxiety connected with injury, illness or addiction.

To this point the main use of the therapy has been to reduce the amount of morphine required by burns victims enduring painful wound dressing. 

Carbis says that a pilot study at Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital showed that patients treated with VRH therapy required 30% less morphine during wound cleaning. A full clinical trial is now underway.

“We started in burns pain management because we wanted to test the therapy’s effectiveness in an extreme treatment environment and to obtain solid clinical data, but the technology has much wider applications,” Carbis says.

Work is being done to develop VRH therapy programs that will help people quit smoking and lose weight, with the smoking addiction program to be completed later this month.

The VRH units, which fit into a suitcase, are also being used for anxiety treatment in 10 GP, psychologist and psychiatrist clinics on a pay-per-use basis.

Mastro says that while some of these units have achieved strong results, with one clinic performing up to 30 treatments a week, others have been slower to take up the technology.

“Mixed results are inevitable at this stage of refining the product,” he says. “There is some ignorance about the technology and hypnosis in general, holding back usage.”

Virtual Medicine is seeking involvement from an investor with the business savvy to help drive the commercialisation of VRH and around $500,000 to contribute to the business.

The investor could be pivotal in helping Virtual Medicine expand into the massive US health market, where a pharmaceutical multinational has expressed interest in distributing VRH.

Carbis and Mastro believe the smoking and weight loss programs being developed have massive potential in the US market if handled correctly.

Money invested will be used to expand production of the VRH units, employ consultants with expertise in sales and marketing and fund further research and development.

Contact: Colin Carbis on +61 03 9495 0212.

Get the latest intelligence on how to grow your business from our Growth Resources: Finance section. See Getting money to start-up, Private equity and Investing in start-ups.

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