KidneyX Accelerator Raises Hopes for Innovation in Kidney Space

Innovation in kidney care promises to be a significant theme in the kidney community in 2018, and it is hoped, well beyond. At ASN Kidney Week 2017, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Chief Technology Officer Bruce D. Greenstein announced HHS’ commitment to launching a “KidneyX Innovation Accelerator” in 2018.

Although dialysis is a remarkable and life-saving technology, compared to other fields of medicine, nephrology has seen relatively few transformative new drugs or other therapeutics. Although kidney diseases are among the most complex, in part the relative dearth of innovation is due to perceptions of the market.

Angel investors, venture capitalists, and others are interested in making investments in the kidney field, Greenstein said, but have been hesitant to enter the space because the government has not demonstrated a path forward to do so. Given the outsize role the federal government plays in reimbursement for kidney care relative to other areas of medicine, potential investors are particularly sensitive to its signals in the field of nephrology. The announcement at Kidney Week in New Orleans heralded a new era, with all signals beginning to point toward demand for more innovation. As Greenstein told plenary attendees, the government’s efforts in “making a very clear indication that this is a priority, and that we are moving forward to find a better way in the future, will begin to attract investors in this area.”

In order to accomplish this goal, the Accelerator will provide three key ingredients. First, a public-private innovation fund will provide seed funding to promising opportunities for potential cures, therapies, and other products in order to accelerate breakthroughs in kidney care that may otherwise languish or never come to fruition. Second, bringing together in parallel NIH discovery efforts, FDA approval processes, and CMS payment indications will reduce the risk involved for companies and investors considering investing in the nephrology space, increasing the likelihood that new products will be commercialized and put in the hands of nephrologists and their patients. Third, and perhaps most important, the KidneyX Accelerator will create a sense of urgency to develop new kidney therapies—an urgency that patients and their families feel on a daily basis—across the disciplines of science, engineering, and finance.

Greenstein called upon the entire kidney community to get involved in the effort to foster innovation. “We admit readily that we do not have the answers for this. This Accelerator program should be seen as the beginning of a partnership with this community and others. We need everyone’s help to go forward and make a difference.”

January 2018 (Vol. 10, Number 1)