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HHS to Launch Innovation Accelerator for Kidney Disease

May 1, 2018
by Heather Landi
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is partnering with the American Society of Nephrology to launch the Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX). KidneyX will engage a community of researchers, innovators, and investors to enable and accelerate the commercialization of therapies to benefit people with and at risk for kidney diseases through a series of prize competitions and coordination among federal agencies and the private sector.

More than 40 million Americans live with kidney diseases and 703,243 experience kidney failure, according to HHS. With an aging population and rising prevalence of diabetes and hypertension, more Americans need dialysis than ever before. Patients with chronic kidney disease continue to have limited treatment options and are particularly vulnerable in natural disasters when local dialysis centers are damaged or closed for more than a few days.

In a blog post, HHS Chief Technology Officer Bruce D. Greenstein wrote that his mother relied on dialysis for 14 years. “From her first day to her last, little changed in her treatment. We would hardly tolerate such stagnation in our smartphones or cancer treatments. The American taxpayer is billed annually $35 billion for a decades old technology with mortality rates higher than most cancers; the current standard of care simply isn’t acceptable,” he wrote. Greenstein further wrote, “KidneyX is designed to accelerate the development of drugs, devices, biologics and digital health tools spanning prevention, diagnostics, and treatment with the aim of giving patients with renal failure better treatment options and ultimately, to reduce the need for dialysis.”

In a press release, Greenstein noted that over the last decade, patients with cancer and heart disease have benefitted from innovative improvements in therapies, drugs, devices and digital health tools. “Patients suffering from kidney disease deserve the same opportunity. With KidneyX, HHS sends an important message to innovators and investors regarding the desire and demand to help patients suffering from chronic kidney disease,” he stated.

To prevent kidney diseases as well as improve the lives of the 850,000,000 people worldwide currently affected, KidneyX will accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney disease and will address the barriers innovators commonly identify as they look to bring new drugs and technologies in kidney care to market.

The innovation accelerator will provide funding through prizes to promising innovators selected through a prize competition. In his blog, Greenstein noted that early-stage health startups in the kidney diseases world often struggle to raise funding at translational stages, particularly those who seek to adapt innovations from other domains. KidneyX will direct public-private awards that specifically match needs of patients and healthcare systems to the innovation skills of entrepreneurs, he wrote.

KidneyX also will encourage better coordination across the HHS agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in order to help clarify the path toward commercialization, according to HHS. The innovation accelerator also aims to create a sense of urgency to develop new therapies to treat chronic kidney disease.

“By launching KidneyX, ASN and HHS have sent a clear signal that the kidney space is ripe for accelerating innovation in the fight against kidney diseases. KidneyX will serve as that catalyst while encouraging the venture capital community that has previously been reluctant to invest in kidney therapeutics to revisit it as a target for potential investments,” ASN President, Mark D. Okusa, M.D., said in a statement.

KidneyX will accept applications for its first round of prize funding in late summer 2018


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