ASN Urges Congress to Fund KidneyX, Accelerate Innovation for Kidney Patients

Advocates from the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) and ASN are calling on Congress to include funding for KidneyX in its annual government funding legislation and advance innovative technologies for kidney patients, such as a wearable or implantable artificial kidney.

KidneyX is enabling innovators to fill unmet patient needs through a series of prize competitions, de-risking the commercialization process by fostering coordination among federal agencies and addressing urgent needs on behalf of patients and families.

Receiving extensive bipartisan, bicameral support for the program and $10 million in Congressional funding over the past two years, KidneyX is already demonstrating return on its investment, supporting more than 50 innovators in 22 states through its 4 prize competitions: Redesign Dialysis Phase 1, Redesign Dialysis Phase 2, the Patient Innovator Challenge, and the COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge.

Prize winners have developed a broad range of solutions, from patient generated products that improve quality of life, such as clothing designed for the comfort and convenience of receiving dialysis, to technology that could serve as the backbone of next-generation therapies for people kidney failure, such as implantable filtration cartridges which are clot resistant and easier to transport than current home therapies. A complete list of prize winners can be found on the KidneyX website.

Currently, KidneyX is running Phase 1 of the Artificial Kidney Prize, which will accelerate development of continuous kidney replacement therapies that provide transformational treatment options beyond current dialysis methods, such as a wearable or implantable artificial kidneys. Advocates are calling on Congress to provide $25 million in funding to KidneyX in the next fiscal year, to support future phases of the Artificial Kidney Prize as well as prizes to support other areas in need of innovation such as more efficient diagnostics of kidney diseases.

For many of the advocates meeting with their congressional delegation, the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased attention to disparities in kidney health have renewed the urgency for new therapies, as well as better ways to diagnose and prevent kidney diseases.

Among Medicare beneficiaries, people with kidney diseases face the greatest risks for severe outcomes from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death. COVID-19 even damages the kidneys of as many as 50% of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients, even those without a prior history of kidney diseases. Further, while Black Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, they represent 33% of Americans receiving dialysis, the most common therapy for kidney failure that relies on core technology more than 50 years old.

Due to its public-private structure, prize funding model, and support across the federal government, KidneyX quickly advanced innovation in the care of people with kidney diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, KidneyX launched the COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge to promote solutions that reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection to kidney patients, their care partners, and healthcare staff. Prize winners developed solutions that increase access to COVID-19 vaccines for kidney patients living in hard-to-reach geographies, and pandemic prevention kits for socially-vulnerable kidney patients.

Advocates are leveraging these success stories, as well as the bipartisan support from champions of KidneyX such as Representative Suzan DelBene, Representative Larry Bucshon, Representative Terri Sewell, Representative Brian Babin, Senator Ben Cardin, and Senator Todd Young to urge Congress to increase its investment in transforming kidney care by providing $25 million to KidneyX.

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