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Our mission is to fund the development of a revolutionary
synthetic kidney, derived from stem cells, that will improve
treatment of kidney disease and replace dialysis.

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The synthetic kidney project is a true collaborative effort, involving experts from the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center and interdisciplinary labs across USC.

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TOGETHER WE BUILD A KIDNEY

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Happy Holidays!

Dr. Zhongwei Li

Dr. Li’s $2.475 Million NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Which Supports Unusually Innovative Research from Early Career Investigators, Will Advance His Progress Towards Generating A Synthetic Kidney For Patients In Need Of Transplants

To build a synthetic kidney, Dr. Li will combine natural developmental cues with bioengineering to direct stem cell-like progenitor cells to begin self-assembling in the laboratory. He will then transplant the resulting kidney structure, which will still be in an embryonic-like state, into the abdomen of a recipient. Once transplanted, the synthetic kidney will continue to grow and mature into a functional synthetic kidney.

“By working towards the creation of a synthetic transplantable kidney that can grow and mature into a functional organ in the recipient’s own body, our project aims to address the current shortage of donor kidneys,” said Dr. Li, who is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension and USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center, and of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at USC. “Our long-term goal is to create a revolutionary new treatment strategy for the millions of patients with chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.”

“UKRO and the entire Kidney Research Center team are exceptionally proud of Dr. Li’s recognition by NIH for the innovative work that he and his colleagues throughout the USC infrastructure have accomplished to date in beginning to build a synthetic kidney using human stem cells,” said Kenneth Kleinberg, UKRO President and co-founder. “Our organization is committed to raising the huge amount of capital funding that is required to bring this exciting project to fruition.”

The NIH Director’s Awards honor exceptionally creative scientists proposing unconventional approaches for addressing major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. The awards are supported by the NIH Common Fund as part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which recognizes scientists who think beyond traditional bounds and pursue trailblazing ideas that advance knowledge and enhance health.

Learn more about the synthetic kidney project.