LOS ANGELES, CA – April 20, 2010 – University Kidney Research Organization (UKRO), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization supporting medical research related to the prevention, treatment, and eradication of all forms of kidney disease, has teamed up with multiple Grammy® Award winning singer and songwriter, Natalie Cole.

“As someone who has been affected by a form of kidney disease, I recognize that I survived kidney failure and am alive and healthy today because of the availability of improved treatments, procedures, and medications devised from decades of medical research,” said Ms. Cole. “The staggering toll that kidney diseases exact makes it imperative that we vastly increase study in this field, and I am pleased and proud to support the efforts of UKRO to do so. Through my involvement, I hope to bring greater recognition to UKRO’s fundraising efforts for kidney research.”

Ms. Cole will serve as spokesperson for the organization, supporting its efforts and raising awareness about the importance of research in fighting all forms of kidney disease. Ms. Cole received a kidney transplant in May 2009 after almost 10 months on dialysis following the loss of kidney function resulting from other medical treatments.

Ken Kleinberg, President of UKRO, said, “We were thrilled when Natalie Cole joined our board, and we are honored to have her as our first national spokesperson, especially during a time when health issues are among those most pressing nationally and around the world. If we can make kidney research a priority in the public mind—like research regarding AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and juvenile diabetes—we can expect to see much faster progress in finding better and more effective treatments for kidney-related diseases, which affect more than 1 out of every 10 Americans.”

Nearly 26 million people in the United States alone are believed to suffer from some type of kidney disease, and millions of others are at increased risk, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch reported in 2009 that Medicare costs for kidney disease are almost $72,000 per patient annually. Additionally, the American Society of Nephrology states that the annual costs of treating end-stage renal disease (ESRD, or complete kidney failure) are currently $32 billion, with the number of ESRD patients expected to escalate to 785,000 by 2020, up from 380,000 in 2000.

Despite these statistics, kidney disease research remains under-funded. UKRO is contributing to kidney research primarily—but not exclusively—at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and hopes to secure contributions sufficient to establish a kidney research center the like of which does not presently exist.

UKRO’s Board of Medical and Scientific Advisers is chaired by Dr. Vito M. Campese, Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics, and Chief of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at the USC Keck School of Medicine. That board also includes, among others, Alicia McDonough, Ph.D., Professor of the Department of Cell and Neurobiology; Janos Peti-Peterdi, M.D., Professor of Physiology, Medicine and Nephrology; Alan S. L. Yu, M.D., Associate Professor of the Department of Medicine/Nephrology and Physiology; and Donald Marsh, Ph.D., Dean Emeritus of Brown University Medical School and Professor of Medical Science.


Los Angeles native Natalie Cole is a nine-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, and actress, having won Best New Artist in 1975. Cole’s most recent album, Still Unforgettable, won her a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album in 2009. Her 21st studio album, it also marked her first time as producer. Her canon includes such No. 1’s as “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” “Inseparable,” “Our Love,”  “I’ve Got Love On My Mind,” “Pink Cadillac,” and “Miss You Like Crazy.” Cole is currently on an international tour for her current album Still Unforgettable.