Major funding for The Kidney Project from NIBIB Quantum Program

The research journey toward building a fully functioning, surgically implantable artificial kidney as an alternative to kidney transplant and dialysis just took another step forward with the announcement of a $6 million grant to The Kidney Project, headquartered at the UCSF School of Pharmacy. The funding comes from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Leading the project are bioengineer and technical project lead Shuvo Roy, PhD, at UC San Francisco Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, and nephrologist and medical project lead William Fissell, MD, at Vanderbilt University Department of Medicine.

The grant is under the NIBIB Quantum Program, established to apply advances in technology “to achieve a profound (quantum) advance over present-day approaches to the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and/or treatment of a major disease or national health problem through … biomedical technologies.”

The artificial kidney—about the size of a coffee cup—will filter toxins from the blood while also performing the metabolic functions of a living kidney. It will be surgically implanted, connected to the patient’s blood supply, and will require no pumps or batteries and no immunosuppressant drugs.

“We have been working for more than a decade with colleagues nationwide toward a sophisticated, surgically implantable device for end stage renal disease patients—pushing the limits of engineering to create nanoscale-sized components and bio-hybrid devices while taking advantage of new technologies and discoveries as they happen outside our labs,” said Roy. “To get the bioartificial kidney working seamlessly in its own small box inside the body, we have to think and work outside the box.”

“It has been a total team effort,” added Roy. Along with the project’s NIH partner, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently designated The Kidney Project for inclusion in the new Expedited Access Pathway program, designed to speed the development of devices to address major unmet needs in fighting debilitating diseases.

Shuvo Roy

Shuvo Roy, PhD

The Kidney Project also has a strong grassroots support community, on both social media and crowdfunding sites. “Just as important as our institutional partners are our patient advocates and donors. They’re early, critical members of our team, and their continued support remains essential,” said Roy.

Current treatment of end stage renal disease is through the short-term solution of dialysis or the longer-term solution of kidney transplant. Neither is permanent. Donor kidneys are severely limited and dialysis is difficult, time-consuming, and inconvenient. As Roy explains the problem, “More than 600,000 Americans are affected, and the prevalence of end stage renal disease is increasing at five percent per year. The sooner we can get a quality device to patients, the better.”



School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, PharmD Degree Program, UCSF - UC Berkeley Joint Graduate Group in Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics Graduate Program (PSPG), PSPG

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.