On April 9, the president of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) urged Congress to boost scientific innovation in kidney research through a federal prize competition. In her testimony before the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology, ASN President Sharon M. Moe, MD, FASN, voiced support for federal prize competitions as a mechanism to incentivize new approaches to renal replacement therapy that could reduce escalating Medicare costs and improve care for the 450,000 Americans with kidney failure.

“I feel strongly that current scientific knowledge in the understanding of the kidney is at a level that makes such life-altering innovation a real possibility. I firmly believe American ingenuity is ready and willing to take this basic knowledge and turn it into a transformative, cost-saving technology that offers real hope for a better life to patients suffering through the current consequences of dialysis. Together, we can offer hope to the 20 million Americans with kidney disease who fear dialysis is in their future,” said Moe, who is a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Her testimony at the Prizes to Spur Innovation and Technology Breakthroughs hearing highlights how a federal prize competition for kidney disease would mobilize the development of new tools to address one of the costliest health care challenges the U.S. government faces today.

Nearly 450,000 Americans with kidney failure rely on the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program for lifesaving dialysis. The ESRD Program is the only federal health entitlement program that provides coverage regardless of age or disability. Caring for people with kidney failure costs Medicare nearly $35 billion annually. Patients with ESRD account for less than 1% of the Medicare population but their care constitutes 7% of the program’s budget.

“We must work together to innovate, to continually improve care, to help the millions of kidney patients become more productive citizens, and to contain the costs of the program,” said Moe. “We must incentivize the development of therapies that give the ESRD program greater value for the taxpayers’ contribution in terms of lower expenditures on care and better outcomes for patients.

“ASN believes that a prize competition is a powerful lever that could significantly spur development of a novel kidney replacement therapy that is more efficient and cost-effective than current therapies and makes patients feel better,” said Dr. Moe. “I thank Chairman Smith and Subcommittee Chairman Bucshon for calling attention to the value of prize competitions, and for the opportunity to testify at the hearing today.”

The hearing is also available as a webcast at http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-technology-hearing-prizes-spur-innovation-and-technology.