Interview With Manuri Gunawardena
Describe your product or service:
“Manuri launched HealthMatch in 2017 after witnessing the challenges of patients looking to gain access to clinical trials.
In her final years of medical school, she worked in neuro-oncology research, particularly focussed on Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) tumours, an incurable and aggressive form of brain cancer.
Through her experience she saw firsthand how difficult it was for researchers to find appropriate patients and how reliant patients were on their doctors to have the knowledge for cures.
That’s where HealthMatch was born from — a passion to empower patients to not only understand their treatment options but to gain access, too.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“HealthMatch is driven by a mission to accelerate medical research allowing for faster and more efficient access to life-changing medication. Through technology that puts the metaphorical steering wheel back in the hands of the patient, our goal is to make the process of finding and accessing clinical trials as simple as possible for all.
At HealthMatch, the patient is always at the centre of everything we do.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“35 full-time employees across Australia and the US.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Experiencing firsthand the cutting-edge technology being used in clinical trials to treat an aggressive and terminal brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, is what inspired young medical student Manuri Gunawardena to leave her burgeoning medical career in favour of starting her own business.
Despite dreaming of becoming a neurosurgeon since she was a child, Gunawardena combined her medical expertise with a potentially life-saving business model – HealthMatch.
“What motivated me to start HealthMatch was knowing that if I could connect patients to clinical trials in a more efficient and effective manner, I could make an impact on many more lives.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“Officially launched in 2019, HealthMatch has raised $25 million in venture capital from investors across Australia, the US, and Singapore (where the company received the largest local health tech funding round in Australia for 2020), making access to emerging potential treatments much easier for patients.
Having helped 120,000 patients create profiles on HealthMatch has allowed some 11,000 people to be placed in clinical trials in just two years.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“The lack of knowledge about clinical trials.
COVID-19 has led to a mindset shift that has really been helpful:
On the one hand, consumers are more aware of clinical trials and the importance of them. The crisis has brought the importance of what HealthMatch does into sudden stark clarity. It’s made it really relevant to the general population.
But, it’s also made pharmaceutical companies and the medical industry more open to using new technology, whether that’s products such as HealthMatch or telehealth and patient engagement platforms.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Anyone with any of the 350+ chronic conditions we have on our platform — anything from acne and Alzheimer's to cancer and diabetes. This is about 50% of the population.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things.’”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?