$3.5 Million Gift Establishes USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center

 Pictured at the announcement, are (from left to right) Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito; Kenneth Kleinberg, founder of UKRO; singer/songwriter Natalie Cole; and Vito M. Campese, professor of medicine and chair of the Keck School's division of nephrology, and chair of UKRO’s Medical Scientific Advisory Board. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision.)

By Amy E. Hamaker

The Keck School of Medicine of USC and the University Kidney Research Organization (UKRO), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group that supports medical research concerning the causes, improved treatments for, and prevention of kidney disease, announced the establishment of the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The new center was created with the help of a recent gift pledging $3.5 million from UKRO.

During the announcement made on September 19, entertainment lawyer and UKRO founder Ken Kleinberg said he was inspired to raise awareness and funds for kidney research after suffering from a kidney ailment in 1999, leading to a kidney transplant in 2007. “I was told at the time, ‘We’ve known about [the kidney disease] for years, but we don’t know what causes it,’” he said. “That was in 1999; today, in 2012, we still don’t know what causes it. The lesson of all this, of course, is the only way we can conquer kidney disease is through research.”

Singer, songwriter and performer Natalie Cole, who attended USC briefly as a student, remembered her time as a kidney transplant patient in 2009 as difficult. “I really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Symptoms don’t always show; I found out there are so many people with kidney disease who don’t even know they have it, and that scares me. This moment [of creating the Kidney Research Center] is one that’s most overdue, but welcome.” 

Vito Campese, professor of medicine at the Keck School and chair of UKRO’s Medical Scientific Advisory Board, and Edward Crandall, chair of the Department of Medicine at the Keck School, described the importance of prioritizing kidney research through the Kidney Research Center. “With determination and perseverence, Ken Kleinberg and UKRO have really driven this initiative and helped USC make it happen,” said Crandall.

The center will be operated as part of the Keck School of Medicine’s division of nephrology in the department of medicine. “This inauguration is certainly a landmark in the future of the division of nephrology and kidney research at the Keck School of Medicine, and we’re very happy to work with UKRO,” said Campese, chief of the division. “Partnering together, I think we will create the best research center in nephrology on the West Coast.”

“Millions of people in America suffer from chronic kidney disease, but with the establishment of this center, those patients now have an extra champion in the fight,” said Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen A. Puliafito. “We are proud to be the home of this new center, and are grateful for the leadership of Dr. Campese, Dr. Edward Crandall, the chair of our Department of Medicine, and the support from UKRO that helped make establishing the center possible.”

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