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Oxford skyline © Oxford University Images/Whitaker Studio

Oxford VR, the University of Oxford spin-out company founded by Professor Daniel Freeman, was successful in a £10 million investment round led by Optum Ventures and supported by Luminous Ventures. The investment is being used to accelerate its expansion in the US and strengthen its treatment pipeline of VR therapies for mental health conditions.

Professor Catherine Harmer and Dr Susannah Murphy received an investigator-initiated grant from Zogenix, a US based pharmaceutical company, to explore the effect of fenfluramine on cognition in healthy young people. Fenfluramine has recently been licensed for the treatment of Dravet Epilepsy by Zogenix and has been noted to improve cognition in children receiving this treatment. However, it is not clear if this has a direct effect on cognition or is mediated by reductions in seizure frequency. Volunteers between the ages of 18-21 years will be recruited and randomised to seven daily doses of fenfluramine vs placebo in a double-blind designed trial to test the effects of this drug.

A team led by Professor Noel Buckley, Dr Andrey Kormilitzin and Associate Professor Alejo Nevado-Holgado was awarded £1.4 million by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as part of their Functional Genomics partnership with the University of Oxford. The partnership aims to develop ambitious ideas to transform our understanding of how genetics influences disease and enable the identification of novel and high quality genetically validated targets for the development of novel therapeutics. Professor Buckley and his team have proposed a novel cellular model of Alzheimer’s disease that uses Artificial Intelligence to rapidly identify molecular or genetic perturbations that control the switch between protected and disease states to identify novel therapeutics to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Associate Professor Mina Fazel is leading work at Oxford University with Sage Bionetworks and an international group of researchers on the Global Mental Health Databank, a feasibility study that hopes to find ways to encourage young populations in the UK, South Africa, and India to access digital mental health interventions and use the data gathered to better understand how young people can manage their own mental health. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of their work to identify the next generation of treatments and approaches to prevent, intervene, manage, and stop relapse of anxiety and depression in young people.