The American Society of Nephrology is trying to look past dialysis for kidney disease patients, and wants outside engineers and investors to help.
Hoping to tackle one of the hardest problems facing your association’s membership? Consider a competition—and inviting bright minds outside of membership to take part in finding a solution.
That’s the thinking behind the American Society of Nephrology’s “Technology Roadmap for Innovative Approaches to Renal Replacement Therapy.” Announced last week [PDF], the ASN effort is meant to spark new ideas about how to treat kidney disease beyond dialysis. The roadmap [PDF] lays out specific goals for therapy improvements, suggested time horizons, and the kinds of multidisciplinary collaborations required to make those improvements happen.
The path to the roadmap itself began in 2012 with the creation of the Kidney Health Initiative, a partnership between ASN and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that was charged with seeking out new treatments for late-stage kidney disease. Such treatments have been stubborn to evolve, said Dr. Joseph V. Bonventre, chief of the renal unit and director of the bioengineering division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who led the team that developed the roadmap.
We’re being invited to more and more venues where the audience may be primarily not renal.
“Dialysis really hasn’t changed substantively over the last 60 years,” he said. “And dialysis, as a patient support system, is associated with the relatively low quality of life for patients and an unacceptable mortality rate of 50 percent over three years.”
The roadmap is designed to run in tandem with KidneyX, a $2.6 million prize contest that ASN launched last year in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is meant to bring fresh ideas into kidney-disease treatment, much like SpaceX’s contests for manned space flight. In both cases, Bonventre said, the participation of thinkers who aren’t directly involved in nephrology can be critical to improvements. The roadmap calls on not just medical researchers and patients for input but also technology developers, engineers, regulators, insurers, government agencies, and entrepreneurs.
And by structuring the roadmap around achievable goals—it lists short-term goals that it says can be attained within five years as well as long-term ones—ASN hopes to attract the kind of outside investment that can help them get met.
Bonventre said that ASN is spreading the word about the roadmap by connecting with groups outside the renal community by promoting it in medical engineering journals, and by making members of the roadmap team available to speak to outside groups. “We’re being invited to more and more venues where the audience may be primarily not renal,” he said.
The initiative’s success will depend on “how successful we are in getting resources—financial resources and intellectual sources,” he said. “It will also depend on interest from the public, researchers, venture capitalists, and other people in the private sector. But we’re seeing that there’s a lot of enthusiasm and a very strong need.”