KidneyX Summit Spotlights Possibilities for Bioartificial Kidney

Innovators developed tools and prototypes of bioartificial kidneys.

This year’s KidneyX Summit, which brought together various professionals in industry, academia, patient advocacy, and the public sector, highlighted opportunities to advance the development of a bioartificial kidney by experts from regenerative medicine, cellular engineering, tissue engineering, systems biology, and synthetic biology. A public private partnership between ASN and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), KidneyX is focused on accelerating innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases. To increase options for people with kidney diseases, KidneyX hosted the Second Phase of its Artificial Kidney Prize to incentivize opportunities to develop a bioartificial kidney. 

At this year’s summit, KidneyX recognized eight winners who endeavored to develop prototype bioartificial kidneys or a new tool or component to help enable this development. For their innovations, David K.C. Cooper, MD, PhD, FRCS and Matt Tector, PhD each received $1.6 million, and Anthony Atala, MD; William Chang, MD, PhD; Nils Olof Lindström, PhD; Harald C. Ott, MD; Shuvo Roy, PhD; and Ben Shepherd, PhD each were awarded $1 million.

Given that a functioning kidney is built from over 26 different cell types that integrate seamlessly to maintain homeostasis, developing a bioartificial kidney that works safely and effectively is very difficult. Collaboration between patients and innovators is also paramount to ensure the technology increases benefit while reducing risk and burden.

“The Artificial Kidney Prize Phase 2 winners highlight paradigm-shifting solutions in xenotranplantation and regenerative medicine that are being developed to reduce the burdens of kidney disease,” says John R. Sedor, MD, FASN, KidneyX Steering Committee Chair.

The winners created new possibilities in a variety of areas, including pig kidney based transplant options; a 3D vascularized biomimetic renal construct platform for accelerated vascular integration; bioartificial kidneys that combine kidney organoids for peritoneal dialysis; synchronized nephrons connected to synthetic organizers to drain artificial kidneys; manufacturing and system dynamics tools to enable autonomous blood purification implants; an immunoprotective bioreactor for kidney cell encapsulation; and a bioengineered option. 

Thirteen people die every day while waiting for a kidney transplant, while those on dialysis face a 50% mortality rate during the first 5 years of treatment. Black, rural, and socioeconomically disadvantaged Americans are disproportionately affected with increased incidence, fewer organs available for transplant, and poorer outcomes overall.

“Kidney diseases are common, serious, and deadly,” adds Sedor. “People with kidney diseases have demanded innovative treatment technologies and management strategies to replace dialysis, which has changed slowly and incrementally over 50 years. The nephrology scientific community has responded with a pipeline of discoveries that promise to revolutionize kidney care.”

Through its prize competition, KidneyX aims to advance a field that has seen little progress in more than 60 years. The best treatment is a kidney transplant, but the supply of organs only addresses a small fraction of the need. Eight hundred and fifty million people worldwide have kidney diseases, including 37 million Americans. In the United States alone, treatment costs total more than $100 billion a year. 

“HHS is excited and still remains committed to the partnership and advancing kidney care,” says Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel L. Levine, MD. “With the close of the Artificial Kidney Prize Phase 2, I couldn’t be more thrilled to congratulate the winners of the competition. This prize competition is leading us into the next steps for advancements and solutions in the artificial kidney developments.”