Oncomfort has won a prize for helping cancer patients manage their anxiety through a virtual reality app.
The company won a $50,000 grand prize in the C3 Prize contest sponsored by pharmaceutical firm Astellas Oncology during the European Society of Medical Oncology Annual Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark. Oncomfort’s Diane Jooris, of Brussels, Belgium, will share part of the $100,000 in grants awarded to three C3 Prize winners.
Houston, Texas-based Oncomfort created virtual reality apps that help patients manage anxiety before, during, and after chemotherapy treatment.
“When I was taking care of my younger sister, Mathilde, I saw how difficult it was for her to manage the stress that built up over the weeks of her breast cancer treatment. Over time, the constant stress led to extreme anxiety and a feeling of helplessness that led her to question whether the treatment process was worth it,” Jooris said, in a statement. “Oncomfort leverages virtual reality technology to help train patients in stress management techniques, give them easy-to- understand information, and help them feel more in control, calm, and comfortable.”
The winners were chosen after five finalists at the premiere health technology conference pitched their ideas live to a panel of judges that included Robert Herjavec, an entrepreneur and star of the Emmy Award-winning television show Shark Tank.
“As the number of people diagnosed with cancer around the world rises, so does the need for innovative tools and resources that help patients with cancer and those that care for them live better during their journey,” said Mark Reisenauer, senior vice president of oncology at Astellas, in a statement. “The C3 Prize was designed to honor bright ideas and potential solutions from the people who are directly aware of the challenges patients and caregivers face on a daily basis.”
Another $25,000 prize went to Mark Harrison of Melbourne, Australia, chief executive officer of Australian Prostate Cancer Research, whose interactive online system, Prostmate, provides community clinical connections for patients with prostate cancer across rural areas. And a third $25,000 prize went to Larry Pederson of Seattle, Washington — founder and director of The Litebook Company, which has developed a light therapy device for use as a tool to reduce fatigue and potentially increase quality of life for cancer patients undergoing treatment.
“Based on my personal experience, I can say all of these ideas address needs for patients living with cancer and their loved ones,” said Herjavec in a statement. His experience as a caregiver for his mother, who died of ovarian cancer in 2007, led him to partner with Astellas Oncology for the C3 Prize. “I also know, from professional experience, the power and impact technology can make on improving lives.”
More than 100 entrants submitted ideas to the C3 Prize.