A national research project has been underway to create a small, surgically implanted, and free-standing bio-artificial kidney to treat End Stage Renal Disease. The bio-artificial kidney will offer a new treatment option beyond the short-term solution of renal dialysis and the longer-term solution of a kidney transplant for which donor organs are severely limited. The bio-artificial kidney is also expected to save national health care dollars. The 1% of the Medicare population with ESRD exceeds 600,000 people and the associated costs account for 7% of the $29 billion overall Medicare budget.
The Kidney Project is comprised of a research team of scientists, engineers and clinicians from across the United States. Its home base is the University of California, San Francisco, and the Project is led by Shuvo Roy, PhD, a bioengineer and professor in the University’s Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, and co-directed by William Fissell, MD, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The bio-artificial kidney is currently in Phase 2 animal studies, with a projected cost of $3 million per year. The goal is to bring the artificial kidney to in-human testing trials by 2017.
The David Family along with Charities Angels, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has begun working with Dr. Roy to help raise funds through the private sector under a campaign they call “Juliana’s Hope.” The catalyst for their grassroots efforts is the David’s 24-year old niece, Juliana Casey of Round Rock, Texas, who was diagnosed with systemic Lupus at the age of 11, started dialysis at the age of 14, and had an unsuccessful kidney transplant at the age of 19 in 2010. Since then, she has had to endure daily hemodialysis while she waits and hopes for a possible second kidney transplant.