HHS, American Society of Nephrology partner to launch kidney care-focused accelerator

The Department of Health and Human Services is joining forces with the American Society of Nephrology to launch an accelerator for kidney care innovation. 

The Kidney Innovation Accelerator, or KidneyX, will begin accepting applications for its first round of funding this summer, HHS announced. In addition to providing funding to back new approaches to kidney care, KidneyX will coordinate with federal agencies to bring the innovations to market more quickly. 

"Over the last decade, patients with cancer and heart disease have benefitted from innovative improvements in therapies, drugs, devices and digital health tools," said Bruce D. Greenstein, HHS chief technology officer, in the announcement. "Patients suffering from kidney disease deserve the same opportunity." 

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More than 40 million Americans and 850 million people worldwide have kidney disease, according to HHS. 

Venture capitalists have been hesitant in the past to get into kidney care projects, said Mark D. Okusa, M.D., president of ASN, so KidneyX will serve as a catalyst to draw them in. 

"By launching KidneyX, ASN and HHS have sent a clear signal that the kidney space is ripe for accelerating innovation in the fight against kidney diseases," Okusa said.

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Kidney Care Partners, a multistakeholder kidney care coalition that includes providers, patient advocates and manufacturers, said in a statement that KidneyX is a "remarkable achievement that is certain to transform the future of kidney care." 

KCP has spent decades pushing for greater coordination between federal agencies on innovative kidney care projects and for more research into kidney disease, the group said. As the number of Americans with kidney disease continues to grow, funding needs have reached a "critical level." 

"KCP will continue our focus on encouraging research and development—both by supporting KidneyX and advocating for strong, research-focused legislation," Allen R. Nissenson, M.D., chair of KCP, said in the statement. 

This joins other recent announcements of investments in innovation in the kidney care space in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, CVS Health announced a new initiative aimed innovating in the kidney disease space with a plan to develop a new hemodialysis device designed for in-home use. An innovation firm founded by former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Andy Slavitt recently backed a startup of a former DaVita Healthcare Partners executive looking to offer value-based kidney care management services to health systems and payers.