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Artificial Kidney Project Lands New $750,000 Funding

Mock up of implantable artificial kidney device (UC San Francisco)

Mock up of implantable artificial kidney device (UC San Francisco)

The Kidney Project, an academic-corporate initiative led by University of California in San Francisco to develop an implantable device to replace failed kidneys, secured a new $750,000 grant from the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation. The funding supplements a $2.25 million grant received this summer from National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The artificial kidney aims to combine microscopic filters made of nanoscale materials, as well as a bioreactor to perform the metabolic and water-balancing roles of a real kidney, and eventually remove the need for dialysis for people with end-stage renal disease, or chronic kidney failure. The project is led by Shuvo Roy, a biomedical engineer in UC San Francisco’s pharmacy school. Collaborating on the project are faculty colleagues from UC San Francisco and four other universities, as well as the Cleveland Clinic and four medical device, engineering, and technology transfer companies.

The system uses a silicon filtering device made of nanoscale materials to remove toxins from the blood. The device also harnesses advances in tissue engineering to grow renal tubule cells to provide other biological functions of a healthy kidney — maintain water and salt balances, produce Vitamin D, and regulate blood pressure and pH. The system would be about the size of a coffee cup (illustrated at top), be implanted in the abdomen, and use the body’s blood pressure to power the filtration functions without separate pumps or an external energy source.

The team has built a room-sized system at University of Michigan that performs these functions, and tested implantable models on animals. The goal is to have a device ready for clinical trials by 2017. In April, the Food and Drug Administration chose the Kidney Project as a participant in the agency’s Innovation Pathway program that allows device developers to work collaboratively with FDA and reduce the overall time needed for regulatory approval.

The university says the Goldman grant is the largest foundation support for the project so far, which has attracted funding from NIH, NASA, Department of Defense, and several individuals. Roy estimates that the project will require an additional $13 million to advance the technology to the point of clinical trials in humans.

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