HealthMatch bags $18 million as COVID-19 shines a light on the need for tech in clinical trials

HealthMatch

HealthMatch founder and chief Manuri Gunawardena. Source: supplied.

Aussie clinical trials platform HealthMatch has secured $18 million in Series B funding, following a year of bolstered consumer focus on medical technology that’s seen its customer base increase tenfold.

Founded in 2017 by former medical student Manuri Gunawardena, HealthMatch matches upcoming clinical trials with patients who could take part — and who desperately want to access them.

The Series B round was led by Square Peg, the VC fund headed up by Seek co-founder Paul Bassat.

Tempus Partners has invested in HealthMatch for the first time, along with the family office of former Australia prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy Turnbull, who is the former chair of biotech Immutep.

Singapore fund January Capital has also taken part in the round, along with a group of high-profile angel investors.

The round follows a $6 million Series A announced in November last year.

As it turns out, that was pretty good timing, giving HealthMatch the cash and the people-power to jump on the unlikely opportunity 2020 offered.

Earlier in the year, HealthMatch turned its attention to supporting COVID-19 clinical trials, and contributing to research to help tackle the virus as it swept across the world.

That provided an unexpected opportunity for Gunawardena to work on building the business’ brand, she tells SmartCompany, solidifying its presence in the industry.

Since then, the team has grown from five people to 20.

The user base has been doubling month-on-month too, increasing from about 8,000 people back in February to 80,000 today.

HealthMatch is now placing some 2,000 people into clinical trials each month, for treatments tackling everything from cancer to eczema to endometriosis.

Within the next 12 months or so, Gunawardena expects to grow the team to 80 people. The funding will also be used to continue developing the product, and to push into Asia.

“A mindset shift”

Gunawardena doesn’t put all of HealthMatch’s growth in the past 12 months down to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After all, the startup had the capital in the bank and was gearing up for growth anyway. Having team members to focus specifically on marketing, business development and product has also played a part.

“It’s hard to tell whether we would have scaled more effectively outside of the pandemic, or whether this has added more growth to our platform,” Gunawardena says.

Either way, it’s been a wild ride.

“It has really helped us and everyone in the team understand that we’re working on a super important problem, and it’s solving a real need for patients.”

But, she does say 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, she says.

“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.

COVID-19 led to delays on other types of healthcare, which led to delays in clinical trials for other conditions — which are typically slow to get started anyway.

That’s one of the inefficiencies HealthMatch is striving to correct. And, during the pandemic, it became all the more pressing.

To add to this, because Australia recovered from the health crisis relatively swiftly, global pharma companies pushed more of their trials here.

“The industry needed a lot of support, and because of that, people were open to using technology,” Gunawardena explains.

The sector was suddenly forced to adopt the most efficient ways of doing things, she says. And there’s no reason to go back now.

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