Bioartificial kidney aims to mimic natural kidney function with $1 million grant from the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation

The John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, a private family foundation based in San Francisco, recently granted The Kidney Project $1 million to advance its bioartificial kidney. The grant will support the development of the device’s bioreactor, which will perform essential kidney functions that dialysis treatments don’t replace.

“People struggling with dialysis need and deserve better choices,” said Marcia and John Goldman, the founders of the foundation. “The Implantable Artificial Kidney will allow those with end stage renal disease to lead more normal lives, freed from grueling dialysis sessions that take a toll physiologically, psychologically, and financially. Dialysis is a short-term treatment; The Kidney Project is offering a life-long option.”

The Kidney Project, headquartered at UCSF, brings together researchers across the U.S. to create a bioartificial kidney for the benefit of the nearly 2 million people worldwide who suffer from end stage renal disease, the most severe form of kidney disease. This first-of-its-kind artificial organ will be implanted in the abdomen to replace a damaged or diseased kidney—without the need for immunosuppressant drugs and at less than one-third the cost of chronic dialysis.

The new grant will accelerate progress on the device’s bioreactor, one of its two main components. The bioreactor contains a culture of human kidney cells, which help filter a patient’s blood by reabsorbing nutrients and routing toxins and excess water—the urine—to the bladder for excretion. The bioreactor will also perform other essential functions of a natural kidney, including assisting with blood pressure regulation and hormone production—an important advantage over dialysis treatments.

“We are incredibly grateful to the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation for enabling us to take this lifesaving research to the next level,” says The Kidney Project leader Shuvo Roy, PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. Roy and William H. Fissell, MD, a nephrologist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, have collaborated closely over the last decade to advance the bioartificial kidney from concept to preclinical trials.

In 2019, The Kidney Project team announced the successful implantation of a prototype bioreactor in large animals without significant safety concerns, an important milestone on the road to human trials. With John and Marcia Goldman Foundation support, researchers will advance the bioreactor closer to performing the essential functions of a natural kidney in human patients.

Since The Kidney Project’s inception, UCSF raised more than $6.7 million for the project from over 2,500 donors worldwide. “We are at a pivotal moment in The Kidney Project, and this generous grant from the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation to advance the bioreactor moves the artificial kidney closer to becoming a crucial therapy for patients,” said B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy.

Previous funding from the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation has enabled progress on the hemofilter, the second component of the bioartificial kidney. The hemofilter, which will connect directly to a patient’s circulatory system, removes toxins from the blood by passing it through silicon nanopore membranes before delivering it to the bioreactor.

To date, the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation has granted a total of $2 million to The Kidney Project, making the foundation the project’s largest private donor.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, PharmD Degree Program

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.