Scaling up the bioartificial kidney at UCSF

The Kidney Project is awarded $1 million from KidneyX for recent advances

On June 12, The Kidney Project was awarded a $1 million Artificial Kidney Prize from KidneyX for advancing its prototype bioartificial kidney toward a full-sized, human scale, with manufacturing and ultimately clinical trials on the horizon.

The Kidney Project is a nationwide collaboration led by Shuvo Roy, PhD of UC San Francisco and William Fissell, MD of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), that aims to free kidney disease patients from dialysis machines and transplant waiting lists.

KidneyX is a public–private partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) founded to “accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases.”

The KidneyX Prize recognizes the advances The Kidney Project has made in showing the feasibility of the bioreactor component of the bioartificial kidney to house kidney cells. “We previously showed the functional proof-of-concept of our device in an animal model,” said Roy, who is a professor of bioengineering at UCSF. “Now we can begin to create full-sized immunoprotective bioreactors that have the clinical capacity to treat patients.”

When the kidneys fail during end-stage renal disease (ESRD), the body loses its ability to filter toxins and other molecules from the blood. Patients with ESRD undergo frequent visits to dialysis clinics, unless they are lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant, which itself requires a lifetime on immunosuppressant drugs.

The Kidney Project’s device consists of a hemofilter that isolates toxins and other waste from the blood plus a bioreactor, containing live, engineered cells, that balances the composition of filtered blood. It is packaged into a proprietary, biologically neutral shell, precluding immune rejection as well as the need for immunosuppressant drugs, according to Roy.

Moreover, its components are modular – the hemofilter could be implanted, on its own, to simplify the dialysis process, enabling dialysis to occur with a patient’s blood never leaving the body. And the shell that contains the device could be used to house other artificial organs in the future.

“The Kidney Project would not be where it is today without our donors and advocates,” said Roy. “It is with their generosity and the continued support of our greater community we are able to receive this prize.”

Millions of patients are desperate for more comfortable solutions to their condition.

“The Kidney Project is building a more hopeful future for patients with no easy options,” said Kathy Giacomini, PhD, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy. “Funding like the Artificial Kidney Prize is vital for ensuring that this work makes good on its promise to revolutionize the treatment of kidney failure.”


HHS and the American Society of Nephrology Announce Winners of $9.2 Million Artificial Kidney Prize Phase 2 at KidneyX Summit (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)


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.