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

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Frustrated by the inequalities in the healthcare system, Manuri Gunawardene dropped out of medical school to try to tackle the problem.

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He founded Healthmatch, which uses a unique algorithm to help people find clinical trials suitable for a variety of conditions, in 2019.

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“There are very few options that focus on making it easier for patients to navigate the thousands of studies,” Gunawardena says. “From day one the real focus has been to be incredibly patient-centered.”

Manuri Gunawardene paused her studies at Johns Hopkins University to create an online matchmaking… [+] system between patients and clinical trails.

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At the time she conceived the idea, she was completing a sub-internship in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and working for the Brain Cancer Foundation.

“I was working on a brain cancer trial,” Gunawardhana says. “I faced the difficulty of patients reaching clinical trials. It took another year to make the leap.”

Typically, physicians help patients identify tests that may benefit them. HealthMatch aims to make it easier for patients to find these tests on their own, even if they don’t have a doctor. One goal is to add to the diversity of patients enrolled in the trails.

“Most of the tests patients are very interested in implementing,” Gunawardhana says. “Clinical trials struggle to access and fill out their equipment number.”

In early September, HealthMatch, based in Sydney, Australia, had tested 3.7 million patients since its US launch in November 2021. The average patient creating a profile on the platform will see 2-3 matches out of the many listed. given condition. This is likely to increase, with the site conducting about 15 new investigators studying in the US per week.

Investors are paying attention. Gunawardene, who has been named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 – Asia – Healthcare and Science list in 2019, raised seed money at TechCrunch startup Battlefield in Australia in late 2017. HealthMatch raised AUD$40 million in early September and has grown from a small team of five to 50 people.

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

The site draws revenue from biotech companies that focus on the data side of the research industry. These companies are interested in learning how to improve the design of their studies.

“It was actually clear that patients were always left out as a byproduct, but they are the most motivated to be part of clinical trials,” says Gunawardene.

Gunawardhana believes that systems like his could ultimately help empower millions of patients. “We are giving patients the ability to understand what treatment options are available to them,” she says. “We’ve got incredibly positive responses.”



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