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Jonathan Himmelfarb, co-director of the UW’s Center for Dialysis Innovation and also director of the UW’s Kidney Research Institute. (UW Photo)

Dialysis can be a life-saving treatment for the millions of people across the globe who face kidney failure. But despite the importance of this treatment, the technology behind it is still essentially the same as when the process was pioneered at the University of Washington in Seattle in the early ’60s.

Now, a new UW center is hoping to revolutionize the technology again. The Center for Dialysis Innovation brings together researchers from around the university with the goal of greatly improving dialysis technology, and it just received a $15 million grant from nonprofit dialysis provider Northwest Kidney Centers to pursue that goal.

Northwest Kidney Centers says the grant will support startup projects within the Center for Dialysis Innovation, with the goal of one day developing dialysis technology that can completely restore kidney health.

Dialysis is currently the only treatment for kidney failure, short of a kidney transplant. Today, over 450,000 people in the U.S. are on dialysis, and the life expectancy for those patients is only 3 to 5 years.

Buddy Ratner, co-director of the UW’s Center for Dialysis Innovation and a professor of bioengineering and chemical engineering. (UW Photo)

“We are excited about the Center for Dialysis Innovation because it brings together creative, entrepreneurial, can-do minds from a wide range of fields including nephrology and bioengineering. This team also wants to involve people living with kidney disease to help direct the center’s focus,” said Joyce Jackson, CEO of Northwest Kidney Centers, said in a press release.

“Their aim is to develop revolutionary dialysis technologies, including a wearable dialysis system that is low-cost, and energy- and water-efficient. This would not only sustain users’ lives, but give them more vitality and productivity. This work is desperately needed,” she said.

The $15 million will be delivered to the center over the next five years. It is the first outside funding the center has received and makes up over half of its goal budget of $25 million.

The Center for Dialysis Innovation opened last November and brings together researchers from the UW’s Kidney Research Institute and the university’s department of biomaterials and bioengineering. It is led by co-directors Jonathan Himmelfarb, director of the UW’s Kidney Research Institute, and Buddy Ratner, a professor of bioengineering and chemical engineering.

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