Shocked by differences in access to clinical trials, this medical student decided to change things


Frustrated by health inequalities, Manuri Gunawardena dropped out of medical school to try to address the problem directly.

She founded HealthMatchthat helps people find suitable clinical trials for a wide variety of conditions, using a unique algorithm, in 2019.

“There are very few options that aim to make it easy for patients to navigate through thousands of studies,” says Gunawardena. “The real focus from day 1 has been to be incredibly patient centered.”

When she came up with the idea, she was doing an internship in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and working for a brain cancer foundation.

“I was working on a brain cancer study,” Gunawardena says. “I encountered the difficulty of patients accessing clinical trials. It took another year to make the leap.”

Typically, clinicians help patients identify studies that may benefit them. HealthMatch wants to make it easier for patients to find these exams themselves, even if they don’t have a doctor to guide them. One of the goals is to increase the diversity of patients participating in routes.

“Most studies are quite interested in applying for patients,” Gunawardena says. “Clinical studies are struggling to access and populate their equipment numbers.”

By early September, HealthMatch, based in Sydney, Australia, had matched 3.7 million patients to trials since its launch in the US in November 2021. The average patient who creates a profile on the platform will see 2-3 matches among the many being used. stated for a given condition. That is likely to increase as the site surveys about 15 new researchers per week in the US.

Investors pay attention. Gunawardena, who was named to the 30 Under 30 – Asia – Healthcare and Science list in 2019, raised seed money in Australia’s TechCrunch Startup Battlefield at the end of 2017. HealthMatch had raised AUD$40 million in early September and has scaled from a small team of five to nearly 50 people.

“I didn’t really have access to a friends or family roundup,” she says. “I started networking in Australia and went to a few events. I eventually met some angel investors who funded the first round. This allowed me to build a prototype.”

The site derives revenue from biotech companies that focus on the data side of the research industry. These companies are eager to learn how to improve the design of their studies.

“What was really clear was that patients were always left as a byproduct, but they are most motivated to be a part of clinical trials,” says Gunawardena.

Gunawardena believes systems like hers could ultimately help empower millions of patients. “We give patients the ability to understand what treatment options are available to them,” she says. “We’ve had an incredibly positive response.”


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