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UCSF Hosts Capitol Hill Briefing on Kidney Research Innovations

by Jennifer Wickre

Shuvo Roy, PhD, holds up a prototype model of the world's first implantable bioartificial kidney. The implantable device would provide relief for people with kidney failure who rely on dialysis or are on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant. Image courtesy of the University of California Office of the President

UC San Francisco bioengineer Shuvo Roy, PhD, traveled to Capitol Hill on May 1 to present at a briefing called “Innovations in Kidney Research: New Hope for Patients.” UCSF joined forces with the Congressional Kidney Caucus to host the educational lunch for more than 100 members of Congress, staff, federal agency officials and kidney disease advocates.

Shuvo Roy, PhD, demonstrates how the artificial kidney works to members of the U.S. Congress.

UCSF collaborated with Vanderbilt University, Northwest Kidney Centers, American Society of Nephrology, the Nephcure Foundation and the National Renal Administrators Association to present a panel on the latest research for treating end stage renal disease (ESRD), a rapidly growing disease that now affects 500,000 Americans and costs the federal government more than $40 billion annually to treat through dialysis and transplantation. 

Roy presented with William Fissell, MD, his Vanderbilt University collaborator, on their development of the world’s first implantable bioartificial kidney.  Roy and Fissell shared their research progress, now in Phase II of development, and expressed support for the types of innovative federal programs that have made their work possible.

Shuvo Roy, PhD, left, and William Fissell, MD, stand in front of the U.S. Capitol before they presented to members of Congress about kidney research.

A $2.25 million Quantum Grant from the NIH, a one-time special grant program designed to make a profound advance in healthcare, helped fund early stage development of the bioartificial kidney.  In 2012, the FDA chose the project as one of three renal devices to pilot a new regulatory approval program called Innovation Pathway 2.0, intended to bring breakthrough medical device technologies to patients faster and more efficiently.

The co-chairs of the Congressional Kidney Caucus, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) kicked off the event, thanking organizers and advocates for educating lawmakers on the impact of ESRD and the need for new treatments.  Rep. Marino, a kidney cancer survivor with limited kidney function, expressed hope that one day he could be first in line for a bioartificial kidney. 

Dr. Robert Star, from the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) and Dr. Murray Sheldon, from the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health also spoke on the role of NIH and FDA in spurring research and innovation for new kidney disease treatments.  Other panelists presenting were Melanie Stewart, a kidney transplant and dialysis patient from Pennsylvania and Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, a kidney researcher from the University of Washington.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Wickre