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Today at the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center, vital work is underway to unlock the mysteries of kidney disease.

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UKRO Gala Dinner Under the Stars

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2022 UKRO Benefit Dinner

Many thanks to our generous sponsors and donors for helping to make UKRO’s Gala Dinner Under the Stars on Friday, June 10, 2022 a great success! The beautiful Wilshire Garden at the Beverly Hilton was the perfect setting to gather together again after more than three years apart. We were honored to welcome USC President Carol Folt, Dr. Steven Shapiro, Dean Carolyn Meltzer and Dr. David Peng, along with USC researchers and clinicians to help us celebrate three amazing individuals who have made major contributions to medicine, healthcare and the kidney community—all in support of USC’s revolutionary synthetic kidney project. Hosted by our incomparable Master of Ceremonies, ABC7 Eyewitness News anchor Phillip Palmer, the night was filled with inspiration, hope and surprises. Our guests were treated to four fantastic films created by UKRO board members, Lewis Kleinberg and Ammiel Najar, highlighting the achievements of each of our honorees and providing a fun and informative overview of the synthetic kidney project. We capped off the night with a rousing performance by the USC Trojan Marching Band, accompanied by everyone’s favorite mascot, Traveler. Kudos to our event planner Judy Levy of LPA Events, UKRO’s Gala Committee, our event producer Amy Shomer, Vince Bucci and his talented team of photographers and the Beverly Hilton staff for creating the perfect night!

Congratulations to Our Honorees



For extraordinary achievement in executive leadership of Keck Medicine and the USC Health System during the most challenging of times, and for driving clinical efficiencies and promoting a culture of trust and teamwork throughout the organization

Rodney Hanners is the Chief Executive Officer of Keck Medicine of USC and the President and Chief Executive Officer of USC Health System. He is responsible for oversight of the university’s clinical activities, including USC Care Medical Group; Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes two acute care hospitals: Keck Hospital of USC and the USC Norris Cancer Hospital; USC Verdugo Hills Hospital; and more than 67 outpatient clinics from Bakersfield to Newport Beach and other clinical practices and joint ventures throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties. He has successfully led the health system through the more than two years of COVID-19 complications and challenges. Prior to serving as CEO of Keck Medicine, Hanners was the chief operating officer for Keck Medicine as well as the CEO for Keck Medical Center.




For extraordinary achievement as a physician and medical innovator saving lives of countless patients all over the world and for immeasurable contributions in improved treatments and protocols in the field of urology

Dr. Inderbir Gill is the Distinguished Professor & Chairman of the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology, Founding Executive Director of the USC Institute of Urology and Associate Dean for Clinical Innovation at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He also holds the Hanson-White Chair. Dr. Gill is an internationally recognized leader in the field of robotic and laparoscopic surgery for urologic cancers. An acclaimed innovator, he is the world leader in laparoscopic partial nephrectomy and cryoablation for kidney cancer. Additionally, Dr. Gill and his team are leaders in robotic and laparoscopic surgery for prostate and bladder cancer, having pioneered many major surgical advances in these areas. He is a distinguished researcher and prolific scholar.




In recognition of her lifelong battle against kidney disease and her extraordinary humanity and support of patients struggling with kidney diseases

Lori Hartwell is the President & Founder of Renal Support Network, a patient advocate and kidney disease survivor. Her mission is to help people living with chronic kidney disease. Hartwell suffered kidney failure at the age of two, survived 50+ surgeries and 13 years of dialysis, and is now living with her fourth kidney transplant. Hartwell founded Renal Support Network in 1993 to instill “health, happiness, and hope” into the lives of fellow patients; she serves as President to this day and has inspired patients, family members and healthcare professionals. She has built a national network of people who she refers to as her “kidney kin” to help let them know they are not alone in this journey and help them find the tools needed to navigate this illness.  

The beginning of a synthetic kidney created by USC researchers
The beginning of a synthetic kidney. Credit: Dr. Biao Huang/Li Lab at the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center

USC’s Synthetic Kidney Project: A Cutting-Edge Collaboration

Today the team at the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center is engaged in a major collaboration with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research as well as other laboratories across USC. Together they are working to push the boundaries of research and build a synthetic kidney to replace normal kidney function in patients. While this project is still in its early stages, the ultimate goal is to generate a substitute, transplantable organ.

The project’s two leading investigators are uniquely positioned to take on this challenge. Andrew McMahon, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading authorities in stem cell research and commands an encyclopedic knowledge of kidney development. Zhongwei Li, Ph.D., specializes in creating the early building blocks of the kidney through the use of pluripotent stem cells.

Zhongwei Li and Andrew McMahon photos and titles

Funding The New Breakthrough

On October 18, 2021, UKRO’s Board of Directors unanimously approved our new mission statement.

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

“A breakthrough like the synthetic kidney requires both private dollars and public support. We have the unique opportunity to change the course of medical history and alleviate the terrible suffering of millions of adults and children. This must be something we do in our time, not in the distant future.” – Ken Kleinberg

KRC News Flash

Dr. Zhongwei Li Wins Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Zhongwei Li, recipient of a $75,000 Keck School of Medicine Dean’s Pilot Grant, recognizing his revolutionary approach to developing a synthetic kidney!

USC Transplant Institute Hits Big Milestone

The USC Transplant Institute has reached an impressive milestone, performing 436 transplants in 2021, a new single-year record. More than 200 kidney transplants were performed at Keck Hospital, and 30 procedures were performed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Nephrology Fellows Heading to Keck

Kudos to the five new nephrology fellows who will be joining the Keck School of Medicine’s prestigious and very popular fellowship program this summer. Fantastic news! The world definitely needs more nephrologists and kidney researchers.