National Kidney Foundation Awards Five Young Investigators Grants for Research

New York, NY–October 29, 2019 — Five young scientists have been awarded the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Young Investigator Research Grants to advance knowledge about the treatment and prevention of kidney disease and kidney failure.
This year’s grants, will go to Vishnu Potluri, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Laith Al-Rabadi, University of Utah Hospital, Salt Lake City; Cristian Riella, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston; Jaya Kala, University of Texas Science Center at Houston, Houston; Manisha Singh, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock.
“The work we funded this year is remarkable in the range of topics and techniques these investigators have chosen to explore,” said Kerry Willis, NKF’s Chief Scientific Officer. “We are excited about the potential of the results to improve the health and outcomes of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease today, and those of generations to come.”
Potluri will study “Forecasting Deceased Donor Kidney Allograft Survival Using Machine Learning.” Thousands of people donate their kidneys each year in the United States to help patients with kidney disease: Unfortunately, nearly 20 percent of all kidneys recovered from donors after death are never transplanted.
Leading kidney organizations in the United States, including the National Kidney Foundation, have prioritized reducing the number of unused, deceased donor kidneys, as one of their goals. This project will utilize tools such as machine learning to improve predicting kidney function after transplantation. The results could lead to more transplantation of kidneys that had previously been rejected due to concerns about quality.
Al-Rabadi will study Alport Syndrome (AS) in the study called “Utah Kindred P Revisited,” which is the second most common cause of inherited kidney failure. It is characterized by progressive loss of kidney function, hearing deficits, and ocular abnormalities. X-Linked Alport Syndrome (XLAS) is clinically and genetically heterogeneous. Distinguishing between mild cases and those that rapidly progress to end-stage kidney failure is difficult, but it is critical for optimal clinical management.
The goal is to apply the methods and data from a pilot study on a larger scale to validate the findings and continue to identify potential modifying genes and pathogenic pathways that may help describe clinical variability in phenotype expression. Identifying such factors could pave the way for new therapeutic approaches.
Riella will study “The Role of RNA Editing in Apolipoprotein L-1 Regulation.” African Americans are four times more likely to develop kidney disease than White Americans. This disparity is explained in part by mutations in the apolipoprotein L-1 (APOL1) gene. The mutations have been found only in African Americans and increase the risk of kidney disease by up to 30 times.
There is currently a gap in knowledge in how this gene is expressed in the body. In Riella’s preliminary work, Riella discovered a new mechanism of APOL1 control, which determines how much APOL1 protein is produced. Understanding this mechanism has the potential to identify new targets for future drug development. Unveiling how the protein is controlled is one step closer to understanding how it causes kidney disease, a question not yet answered.
Kala will study “Isosorbide Mononitrate for Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) Induced Kidney Injury.” Recent advances in cancer chemotherapy have helped dramatically improve the outcome of cancer and overall prognosis. These have allowed the patients to live longer and healthier lives. However, side effects of chemotherapy remain a major challenge. This study may help preserve the patients’ kidney function during chemotherapy, improving its effectiveness.
Singh will study “Identifying Barriers and Impacting Care in Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness.” Of about 450,000 Arkansans with chronic kidney disease (CKD), only 10 percent are aware that they have it. Primary-care providers (PCPs) are powerful partners in protecting kidney function and slowing CKD progression since they encounter patients early in the course of CKD. In this study, Singh will assess the ability of checklists to create short and long-term knowledge gains in PCPs. Singh will also explore barriers that prevent optimized CKD care, including nephrology referrals. A 10-step checklist of CKD guidelines will be used to support PCP awareness and provide an outline for care.
This study is one facet of the overall goal to improve CKD awareness in Arkansas. The results of this study will inform the development of further study addressing an interactive CKD checklist to improve outpatient CKD care.
NKF Professional Membership
Healthcare professionals can join NKF to receive access to tools and resources for both patients and professionals, discounts on professional education, and access to a network of thousands of individuals who treat patients with kidney disease. 
Kidney Disease Facts
In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease—and most aren’t aware of it.  1 in 3 American adults are at risk for chronic kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and family history.  People of African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian or Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease.  African Americans are 3 times more likely than Whites, and Hispanics are nearly 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanics to develop end stage renal disease (kidney failure).
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the largest, most comprehensive, and longstanding patient-centric organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease in the U.S. For more information about NKF, visit