As a sufferer of anxiety and depression, I'm always keen to keep up-to-date with new treatment options. Whether its medications, therapy or other lifestyle interventions, I want to know what's on the cutting edge of medical research.
By exploring what's available for managing my own mental health, I've come to understand how treatments are developed more broadly for all kinds of health conditions. That is, via clinical trials - research studies that assign individuals or groups to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes.
That's why I'm so interested in the work of medical startup HealthMatch, which is acting as a game-changer for health in general, but particularly in women’s health. HealthMatch works as a matchmaker between people and clinical trials to allow them to be a part of developing much-needed treatments for conditions from anxiety to endometriosis to COVID-19.
Founder and CEO Manuri Gunawardena spoke to Mamamia about HealthMatch, how it works, its incredible benefits for women’s health and the heartbreaking story of why she pressed pause on her studies in medicine to create the platform.
“In my final years of medical school, I worked in neuro-oncology research particularly focused on glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) tumours, an incurable and aggressive form of brain cancer.
"At the lab I came to learn of two young people, both in their thirties with the same diagnosis - a young man and woman, in the prime of their lives.
"The woman’s father was a doctor and could effectively navigate the medical system. He worked tirelessly to get her onto a trial. She’s alive today. The young man has passed away. I unfortunately heard this story from the young man’s parents, who had wished they had known of trials as an option.”
This drove Gunawardena to pursue a solution in order to help bridge the gap between who could participate in clinical treatments and who couldn't.
Founding HealthMatch in 2017, Gunawardena describes the healthcare startup as a “patient-facing clinical trial recruitment platform".
“Put simply, it helps patients and people interested in participating in clinical trials find and access them. Our mission is to make this process as easy as possible. It is about empowering patients to not only understand their treatment options but gain access. Every person deserves this and by reaching the largest audience as a global community we all benefit from fast-tracked new medicines,” she says.