Every day, 13 people die in the United States while waiting for a kidney transplant, and those experiencing dialysis face a 50% mortality rate during the first 5 years of treatment. Communities of color are disproportionately affected, with increased incidence, fewer organs available for transplant, and poorer outcomes overall (1). The successful creation of an artificial kidney would revolutionize kidney care in the United States, likely saving lives with more transplants, shorter transplant wait times, alternatives to transplants, and less need for dialysis.
More than $9 million was awarded to eight research teams working on innovative approaches to developing a bioartificial kidney at the 2023 Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX) Summit on June 12, 2023, in Washington, DC. The KidneyX prize competition—now in its fifth year—is a public-private partnership between ASN and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program has held six competitions, awarding approximately $17 million to 75 winners in 26 U.S. states (2). Supporters in Congress are now calling for a funding increase to $25 million for KidneyX in the 2024 federal fiscal year.
“KidneyX is engaging community researchers and investors to bring breakthrough therapies to Americans with kidney disease[s],” said Admiral Rachel L. Levine, MD, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, in her closing keynote at the KidneyX Summit. “Through the power of prize competitions, we have the opportunity to transform lives and generate new solutions for kidney care. Prize challenges are different from science grants because they expand the solution space beyond just academia and researchers. Prizes are an open innovation tool to bring nonprofits, researchers, and governments together while stimulating niche markets and neglected markets like kidney care was before KidneyX.”
The 2023 winners fell into two tracks: 1) accelerating the prototype of a bioartificial kidney and 2) components and tools that enable the development of an artificial kidney. Before the winners explained their approaches at the summit, KidneyX Steering Committee member and patient David Rush, in his morning keynote address, encouraged researchers and physicians to remember why they are doing this. “It's not just me going through kidney disease; it's my kids, it's my wife, it's my family, it's my support system,” said Rush, who is undergoing home dialysis after his transplanted kidney failed in 2017 after 7 years. “When you're doing these things, you're not just doing it for me. You're doing it for future generations.… Remember your why. Remember why you wanted to become a doctor, remember why you wanted to be a nurse.… Don't lose that vision.”
American Society of Nephrology. KidneyX launches new artificial kidney prize with $10.5 million in funding. August 1, 2022. https://www.asn-online.org/about/press/releases/ASN_PR_20220811_KidneyX8.11.2022FIN.pdf
Ibrahim T. ASN Executive Vice President's Update: Assessing KidneyX after five years. Kidney News, June 2023; 15(6):18–20. https://www.kidneynews.org/view/journals/kidney-news/15/6/article-p18_12.xml