The UKRO Story

UKRO was founded because of one simple question.

How can so little be known about kidney disease—a problem that affects and kills so many?


After entertainment lawyer Ken Kleinberg’s kidneys failed, he and his physician, Dr. Vito Campese, founded UKRO to fund innovative research to eradicate kidney disease.

To boost innovative solutions for kidney disease, UKRO partnered with USC to establish the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center (KRC) on USC’s Health Sciences Campus.

UKRO is committed to funding USC’s development of a revolutionary synthetic kidney, derived from stem cells, that will improve treatment of kidney disease and replace dialysis.

A Stem Cell Revolution

Scientists at the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center and a wide-reaching team of collaborators are pioneering a cure – a transplantable synthetic kidney – bringing hope to the 100,000+ Americans that are currently on the transplant list.

It all begins with cells nurtured in a Petri dish, eventually growing into a full-fledged kidney through advanced bioengineering.

In just 10 years, we anticipate these synthetic kidneys will be undergoing FDA trials and making their debut in human treatments.

Today, stem cell-derived mini cystic kidneys are already being used to model polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and perform drug screening to identify novel therapies.

Andrew McMahon and Zhongwei Li

Meet our visionary researchers, Dr. Andrew McMahon, Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, and Dr. Zhongwei Li, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Li’s groundbreaking work has recently been recognized with a prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His mastery of stem cells and Dr. McMahon’s expertise in kidney development bring us closer to rewriting the history of kidney disease.

Watch the film below to learn more about UKRO and the synthetic kidney project.

Landmark International Consensus Statement on CKD

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) mortality rates are on the rise worldwide. It is the third fastest growing cause of death. Read the full article: Kidney Disease: A Global Health Priority, Nature Reviews Nephrology, April 2024

The need for kidney research is real. The time to give is now.

Your donation will accelerate life-saving research.