Virtual KidneyX Summit highlights Phase 2 winners driving innovation in dialysis

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, the kidney community got a hopeful glimpse into innovations in treating kidney failure at the Virtual KidneyX Summit that introduced six winners in Phase 2 of the competition to “Redesign Dialysis.”

KidneyX, a public/private partnership between the American Society of Nephrology and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was established 15 months ago to drive innovation in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases by identifying promising technologies through competitions and awarding funding to the winners. One of the first KidneyX initiatives is it Redesign Dialysis competition.

Five of the six winners of the Redesign Dialysis Phase 2 competition focus on improvements in dialysis access, which one of the winners called “the Achilles’ heel of dialysis.”

While a fistula, which surgically connects an artery directly to a vein, is considered the best and longest-lasting access for hemodialysis, it takes several months to heal until it can be used for dialysis access. Other options include an A/V graft, which connects an artery to a vein using a tube, or a catheter. Peritoneal dialysis uses a catheter placed in the abdomen. The innovative technologies described at the Virtual KidneyX Summit seek to reduce infections in catheters and prolong the life of AV fistulas and grafts. Improvements like these could help to decrease hospitalizations and deaths among dialysis patients.

Two of the Phase 2 winners address the danger of infection from catheters. One uses a high-tech disposable disinfecting cap for hemodialysis catheters, and another is a simple device for use at home to disinfect the catheter for peritoneal dialysis before each use.

Another of the winners is developing a wrap designed to support a healing fistula and help prevent the collapse of the vein, a common cause of fistula failure. Two others are working to improve the life and performance of AV grafts through innovative materials that reduce the likelihood of blood clots and scar tissue buildup, both of which can require surgical intervention.

The sixth Phase 2 winner is The Kidney Project for development of its implantable dialysis system called iHemo, which would enable patients to safely and effectively do hemodialysis at home without needles. The entire kidney community has been closely watching The Kidney Project, which has the ultimate goal of creating a complete implantable biomechanical kidney. The iHemo project is a hybrid that uses some of the groundbreaking technology that is part of the fully implantable bioartificial kidney.

It’s exciting to see this kind of innovation in dialysis, which has seen very little substantive innovation in decades. KidneyX is bringing together the best minds in the field, working with patients and patient advocacy organizations like AKF, and giving us hope for innovation that can dramatically improve the quality of life for those living with kidney failure.

You can read more about each of the winning technologies in Redesign Dialysis Phase 2 at the links below:

•    A Bioresorbable Shape Memory Polymer Wrap to Improve Maturation and Patency of Dialysis Access Sites, Timothy Boire, PhD
•    A Novel Device to Prevent Infection Due to Touch Contamination in Peritoneal Dialysis, Sarah Lee
•    A Pro-Regenerative Vascular Access Graft: Surmounting Challenges Inhibiting Progress, Buddy D. Ratner, PhD
•    Intracorporeal Hemodialysis System, Shuvo Roy, PhD
•    Developing Self-Renewable "Living" Endothelium Vascular Grafts for Hemodialysis, Aijun Wang, PhD
•    Nitric Oxide-Eluting, Disposable Hemodialysis Catheter Cap to Prevent Infection and Thrombosis, Alexander Yevzlin, MD

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About the Author(s)

Mike Spigler

Mike Spigler is Vice President of Patient Services and Kidney Disease Education at the American Kidney Fund.

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