£1 million awarded to enhance IgA nephropathy kidney disease research

IgA nephropathy
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UK researchers have been provided with a substantial £1 million in funding to advance research into IgA nephropathy, a type of incurable chronic kidney disease.

The funding comes on March 10, 2022, World Kidney Day, and is a generous donation from Jimmy Mayer, a long-term advocate of kidney health. The investment will enable experts at the University of Leicester to advance IgA nephropathy (IgAN) research. This chronic kidney disease predominantly affects young adults between the ages of 20 and 30, with there currently being no cure.

The investment will ensure that the University of Leicester team can obtain specialist equipment, such as a state-of-the-art system to investigate the genes that are activated in the kidneys with IgA nephropathy and help facilitate collaboration with pharmaceutical companies to design new drugs to treat the disease.

What is IgA nephropathy?

IgA nephropathy impacts two to three people per 100,000 and around 10% of people receiving dialysis treatment worldwide. The disease can reduce the kidney’s ability to filter waste products from the blood, culminating in kidney failure.

Around three million people in the UK have chronic kidney disease, with 64,000 people reliant on dialysis or a transplant to stay alive. Despite IgA nephropathy being able to affect anyone, it is much more common among people from East and South East Asian countries, including China, India, and Japan. The researchers are confident that their research will help to reduce a patient’s risk of developing kidney failure if they have IgA nephropathy.

How will the funding be utilised?

The provider of the funding, Jimmy Mayer, has supported the University’s research for many years, pioneering their Mayer IgA Nephropathy Laboratory and increasing its team of investigators. To date, he has invested over £4m to develop new treatments and therapies for the disease.

Mayer commented: “My son was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy in 2012, and as any father would, I started to research to better understand this condition. I wanted to know what could be done and how I could modestly contribute to these efforts. Through my investigation, I became acutely aware of the broader implication of kidney disease in our society.

“I also came across the great work of the fabulous team at Leicester. I hopped on a train for a visit and have been their number one fan ever since. It is my sincere hope that with these efforts, they can make significant progress towards a more complete understanding of IgA Nephropathy, improved treatment options and, perhaps even, a cure.”

An array of breakthroughs have already been achieved by the team, including:

  • The discovery of the key abnormality of the IgA molecule which causes IgAN and its genetic basis,
  • Delivering the first genetic study to identify key risk genes for IgAN,
  • Driving the development of the international scoring system for IgAN kidney biopsies,
  • Leading the group that produced the international guidelines on how to treat IgAN,
  • Currently working with over 25 life sciences industry partners on new approaches to treating IgAN.

Professor Jonathan Barrat, an Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and the leader of the Renal Research Group within the College of Life Sciences, said: “We are at an exciting time in the history of IgA nephropathy and within touching distance of finally being able to provide safe and effective treatments for patients with this devastating kidney disease.

“Jimmy and David’s support for our research has been instrumental in moving our understanding of IgAN forwards and has allowed us to access cutting-edge technologies to study this important cause of kidney failure. We hope with continued support we will be able to once and for all remove the spectre of kidney failure that hangs over the lives of young people living with IgA nephropathy.”

Professor Philip Baker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Leicester, added: We are deeply grateful to Mr Mayer and, indeed, all of our philanthropic partners who help enable world-changing research at our University.

“Leicester has a strong track record at investing in the best science for kidney research, and this generous gift will allow us to continue this commitment. Today, IgAN research at Leicester is more crucial than ever, and we have fully embraced a ‘bench to bedside’ approach for research in this area to help improve patient outcomes globally.”

Additionally, the research is supported by the NIHR, Kidney Research UK, local, national, and international donors, collaboration with life sciences industry partners and the UK IgA Nephropathy Patient Community, among others.

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