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2021 Pilot & Feasibility Awardees

FY2021 P&F Awardees

Meet the 2021 NUGoKidney Pilot & Feasibility Grant Awardees

We are happy to announce the grants awarded from our recent call for proposals for our FY2021 NUGoKidney Pilot & Feasibility (P&F) Program. Of the many innovative, high-quality proposals we received, we were able to fund three projects, totaling nearly $140,000 in funds.

For the past 3 years, NUGoKidney has supported high-potential innovation projects with the potential to discover novel nephrotherapeutics that will transform the prevention and treatment of kidney diseases and eventually lead to cures. This is the fourth year NUGoKidney has funded projects through a request for applications, receiving seventeen applications in April from across Northwestern and other academic institutions.

These projects highlight NUGoKidney’s mission to facilitate new cross-disciplinary translational research for the identification and successful implementation of novel therapeutics for kidney disease. In addition to providing funding to advance the selected projects, NUGoKidney’s research cores will work with funded research teams to provide access to core services such as data analysis, bioethics expertise, full-service genome editing services, and nanostructure-enhanced precision targeting.

Please join us in congratulating everyone involved, and please read more about the three supported projects below.

We also want to thank all the applicants who applied. It was an extremely competitive pool of proposals, and we were only able to fund a limited portion of the projects. We recognize there may be others who were unable to apply within our application timeline. We will have future funding opportunities available as part of our new grant cycle for FY2022 and will share this information on our funding page once available. You can also sign up for our funding opportunities email list to get updates on our open opportunities.

Targeted Drug Delivery to Podocytes for the Treatment of Nephrotic Syndrome

Ying Maggie Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Director, Washington University Nephrotic Syndrome Clinic
Division of Nephrology, Washington University in St. Louis

The funded proposal aims to develop podocyte-targeted nanoparticles (NPs) to deliver a new class of drugs, podocyte endoplasmic reticulum (ER) calcium stabilizers. Dr. Chen’s lab will collaborate with NUGoKidney’s Therapeutic Design & Development Core (Core B) to use a patented process referred to as nanostructure enhanced targeting (NSET), which was invented in the lab of NUGoKidney Core B co-director, Evan Scott, PhD, to enhance drug delivery to podocytes. The kidney has largely been overlooked as a target organ for nanoparticle‑mediated drug delivery. If successful, the study could help accelerate the discovery of novel treatments of nephrotic syndrome and other podocytopathies.

Elucidating Molecular Mechanisms of Maladaptive Renal Repair

Tomokazu Souma, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Duke University School of Medicine, Division of Nephrology

Impaired kidney repair/regeneration after acute kidney injury (AKI) can lead to the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD), leaving patients at high risk of end-stage kidney disease, cardiovascular events, and death. Currently, there are no effective treatments to improve the renal repair/regeneration process to prevent the transition from AKI to CKD. Using the NUGoKidney P&F funds, Tomokazu Souma and his team will study how specific molecular pathways regulate both adaptive and maladaptive kidney repair and the therapeutic potential of these pathways for disrupting the AKI-to-CKD transition. To help investigate these pathways, Dr. Souma will work with experts in NUGoKidney’s Preclinical Models Core to develop a novel gene-modified mouse line, which could also provide an excellent novel research tool for improving the understanding of renal repair mechanisms.

Integration of Patient-­Reported Outcomes into Dialysis Clinical Trials: Ancillary Study of the HiLo Trial

Rebecca Frazier, MD
Instructor, Feinberg School of Medicine, Division of Nephrology & Hypertension

The study lead by Dr. Frazier brings together a multicenter and multidisciplinary team of researchers to advance the use of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in clinical trials in nephrology. Dr. Frazier and her team will incorporate PROs in an ancillary study of the HiLo Trial, a randomized controlled trial investigating the optimal phosphate target in hemodialysis patients, to explore the gastrointestinal burdens of phosphate binders in this population.  Dr. Frazier will also explore the perspectives of patients undergoing hemodialysis (HD) on patient reported outcomes (PROs) and test the feasibility of PRO use in pragmatic clinical trials (PCTs). Using surveys and qualitative interviews, she will study patients’ opinions on the burden of PROs and their expectations for PRO use in PCTs (e.g., to address patients’ symptoms, in reporting to patients and providers). Patients’ input on these topics will allow for improvements in the design, administration, and monitoring of PROs in PCTs and will facilitate incorporation of PROs into future studies. To conduct the study, Dr. Frazier will work with NUGoKidney’s Clinical and Translational Research Core for assistance with data collection and analysis along with bioethics support.

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