Press release

American Kidney Fund Awards Two Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Fellowships

Young researchers from Duke, Brigham and Women's Hospital investigating adverse pregnancy outcomes in patients with lupus, and effects of uric acid and oxalate in chronic kidney disease progression

ROCKVILLE, Md. (March 11, 2020) — The American Kidney Fund (AKF) today announced the newest recipients of research funding from its Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Program, which has been funding the most promising emerging clinical researchers in nephrology for over 30 years. Dr. Anika Lucas, a nephrology fellow at Duke University, and Dr. Maria Clarissa Tio, a fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital's Joint Nephrology Program, have been awarded AKF research fellowships and will begin their two-year fellowships July 1.

Dr. Lucas and Dr. Tio join a distinguished roster of more than 40 top nephrology researchers who received early-career support from AKF through the Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Program. Since 1989, this program has funded researchers whose work is designed to improve diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for patients living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure. Their fellowships are funded by generous grants from the Hearst Foundation, Amgen Inc. and a family foundation's anonymous donation.

Dr. Lucas' research will study racial differences in adverse pregnancy and postpartum outcomes in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), with a goal to more accurately identify women who are at particularly high risk for adverse events. Dr. Lucas will conduct detailed studies on an international cohort of women with SLE from the United States, Canada, Germany and Italy — one of the largest reported multi-ethnic cohort of pregnant women with SLE in the world — and will evaluate the relations between maternal second trimester estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and the likelihood of adverse pregnancy outcomes including preeclampsia, preterm birth, fetal loss, and small for gestational age. She will also explore the potential role of APOL1 genetic mutations on these important outcomes.

"In medical school I witnessed the challenges many women and minority patients encountered in navigating our health system in Pennsylvania," Dr. Lucas said. "I plan to conduct patient-centered research on pregnancy and kidney disease, with a focus on understanding and addressing health disparities, and whether changes in eGFR during pregnancy can serve as an additional predictor of maternal, fetal and kidney outcomes in pregnant women."

Dr. Tio will study several emerging risk factors in CKD progression, particularly uric acid and oxalate, through mixed epidemiologic and physiologic approaches. She plans to conduct a prospective study of plasma and urinary biomarkers of kidney tubular injury in the Safety of Urate Elevation in Parkinson's Disease (SURE-PD) study, in which patients' serum uric acid levels were intentionally elevated to delay the progression of Parkinson's Disease. She further plans to examine how changes in urinary oxalate excretion associate with biomarkers of tubular injury and CKD progression using data from the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC), an NIH-funded study which examined risk factors for CKD progression among patients with established CKD.

"Urate and oxalate are underrecognized risk factors in CKD," Dr. Tio said. "Our results can impact how we manage, risk stratify, and slow the progression of CKD, and translate to changes in dietary recommendations and implementation of novel urate- and oxalate-lowering therapies to populations at risk."

Dr. Lucas is a graduate of Wellesley College, received a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School and obtained her medical degree at Temple University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine at the University of Connecticut. As part of her research fellowship, Dr. Lucas will receive additional training in research methods through the Clinical Research Training Program at Duke. Dr. Tio is a graduate of the University of Philippines in Manila and the Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School. She completed her residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. In parallel with her research, Dr. Tio will pursue a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"We are proud to award our newest AKF Clinical Scientist in Nephrology fellowships to two researchers who bring their diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives to the important work of clinical research to innovate treatment of kidney disease," said LaVarne A. Burton, AKF president and CEO. "We are grateful for the support of the Hearst Foundation and Amgen for their generosity in helping us to fund this vital research program that has made invaluable contributions to our understanding of kidney disease and improvements in patient care over more than three decades."

The Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Program strives to improve the quality of care provided to kidney patients and promotes clinical research in nephrology. It enhances the training of nephrologists who want to pursue an academic career and whose primary professional commitment is to scholarship in the provision of patient care.

About the American Kidney Fund

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease—from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization impacts more lives than AKF. One of the nation’s top-rated nonprofits, AKF invests 97 cents of every donated dollar in programs, earning the highest 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator for 20 years in a row as well as the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid, formerly GuideStar.

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