September 28, 2021

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Putting the public in public health: KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge Winners

10 min read

When COVID-19 hit the United States last year, we began to see the toll that the pandemic took on those with chronic diseases. Kidney disease was one of them. People who have chronic and advanced kidney diseases are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, and kidney injury is a major complication of COVID-19. With our Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX) partner, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), we designed a challenge to address the impact of COVID-19 on kidney care through promotion of solutions developed by those living with kidney disease and front-line caregivers. As with all of KidneyX’s prize competitions, there was a sense of urgency for innovation to improve the lives of people with kidney diseases.

On April 6, 2021, we announced seven winners of round 2 for this challenge, the KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge, adding to the 8 winners from round 1. These winners created a broad set of solutions that can reduce the transmission of coronavirus among people with kidney disease, as well as their care partners and health care teams. We are amazed by the ingenuity of the solutions and honored to award $20,000 each in recognition. The winner announcement is the culmination of a new way of advancing kidney care from unlikely sources.

In the process of designing the KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge, we wanted to understand the full scope of what was happening around kidney care and COVID-19. During an ASN-HHS COVID-19 Scarce Resources Roundtable discussion, we discovered that people who were treating kidney patients during the first wave of the pandemic made their own solutions to protect patients and the healthcare staff, and ensure resiliency of kidney care services. With the KidneyX COVID-19 Care Challenge, our question was: How can these innovative solutions be scaled and applied in other settings around the country?

Traditionally, medical research is done by large research institutions. But we recognized that public health activities must include and impact patients and patient care in a meaningful way. By designing this prize challenge to directly solicit solutions from people at the ground level, we not only involved them in the research process, we gained better understanding of challenges that are being faced in everyday care centers.

Since 2018, the goal of the Kidney Innovation Accelerator has been to seed disruptive ideas from both likely and unlikely innovators with a focus on supporting a collaborative and vibrant community that can continue to push the boundaries of innovation. The COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge tested this mission in new ways. It reinforced our conviction that people with lived experience are in the best position to identify challenges and suggest solutions.

For patients, caregivers, and people at the forefront of kidney care – we hear you and understand your wish for direct engagement and the ability to bring ideas to the forefront of care. We plan to host more prize challenges in the future with this goal. The KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge has proven that good ideas come from all levels of the healthcare system.

To learn about each individual winner, read the ASN press release here.

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