Kidney specialists Professors Donal O'Donoghue and Phil Kalra

Innovation and collaboration in kidney research

Innovation and collaboration are the key words as Greater Manchester’s renal experts head to UK Kidney Week 2017 in Liverpool from 19-21 June.

Professor Phil Kalra from Salford Royal is the chair of this prestigious conference as part of his role as Academic Vice President of the Renal Association, which also involves coordinating the implementation of the UK Renal Research Strategy.

His colleague Professor Donal O’Donoghue is President of the Renal Association and was the National Clinical Director for kidney care from 2007 to 2013.

Together with colleagues from Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust (where the Manchester Renal Transplant Unit performs more transplants than any other hospital in the UK), Salford Royal, and The University of Manchester they have ensured that Greater Manchester has a central role in developing renal research and improving patient care and treatment.

That influence can be seen in more than 150 publications in scientific journals by clinical academics at Salford Royal and Manchester Royal Infirmary over the last five years.

But this successful partnership approach extends beyond clinical colleagues – there are also growing links with basic science groups, with industry and the commercial sector, and especially with patient groups such as the British Kidney Patient Association and Greater Manchester Kidney Information Network. Patients have been involved in shaping research, ensuring that it is responsive to their needs and concerns.

Attracting funding for research is another key focus. The UK Kidney Research Consortium (UKKRC) is a partnership between Kidney Research UK, the Renal Association and the British Renal Society and helps to drive the academic development of clinical research.

The consortium has 12 clinical study groups covering different areas such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, transplantation and cardio-renal disease. Members of the groups aim to identify the gaps in current evidence, design research to fill those gaps and obtain funding – a successful approach that has resulted in around £20m of research funding since 2010.

Professor Kalra chairs the UKKRC. He said: “The consortium aims to facilitate the best collaborative clinical research for kidney disease by bringing together the best knowledge and experience from all over the UK. Sharing our expertise and working together means we are more likely to design high quality research and get it funded – and ultimately that translates into improved care for our patients.”

Those improvements don’t necessarily mean new drugs or treatments. One study that has had a major impact on patients is the ASTRAL trial, which looked at people with renal artery stenosis (narrowing of the kidneyartery). It has led to a major worldwide reduction in the number of people having stents fitted inappropriately.

Looking to the future, Professor Kalra says stratified medicine and genomic research will have an important role to play – St Mary’s Hospital leads the Greater Manchester Genomic Medicine Centre and is working with partner organisations to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project.

There is also increasing collaboration between renal researchers and the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences in The University of Manchester’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health.

  • UK Kidney Week 2017 takes place from 19-21 June at ACC Liverpool.