Renal Research Institute Named Winner in KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge

Renal Research Institute Named Winner in KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge

The Renal Research Institute (RRI), a division of Fresenius Medical Care North America, won national recognition for its innovative concept exploring a solution to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by testing personal protective equipment for coronavirus in an innovative form of “pool testing.”

RRI was selected as a Round 2 winner of the KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge for its proposal to collect face masks worn by in-center dialysis patients and employees and to test those masks for exhaled SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.

“This award shines a light on our commitment to use research to improve the lives of dialysis patients every day,” said Dr. Peter Kotanko, Research Director at RRI. “It is exciting to be recognized as a winner in the KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge as our teams are driven to find solutions in the face of this unprecedented pandemic.”

The KidneyX Challenge, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology, sought to identify a range of resourceful solutions that could benefit providers, patients, caregivers, and employees during the pandemic. RRI was one of seven winners.

Submissions for this award were collected from December to January to propose solutions that could decrease the transmission of COVID-19 among people living with kidney disease and/or reduce the risk of kidney damage among those who contract the virus. RRI discovered this fast and cost-effective surveillance method to identify the presence of the COVID-19 virus and reduce spread.

“Once we heard the news that our proposal was selected, the laboratory, clinical, and regulatory teams at RRI immediately started working together to coordinate this effort and set up workflows for collection, transport, and testing of worn face masks.” said Dr. Nadja Grobe, Supervisor of Laboratory Research at RRI. “It is exciting that we can bring this research to life to help the dialysis patients who inspire our work every day.” 

RRI has since conducted a proof-of-principle study which was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The study concluded that masks worn by in-center hemodialysis patients can indeed harbor the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While it is unlikely that infection can spread from the typical handling of these masks, this method can possibly be further utilized as an alternative to NP (nasal) swabs.

KidneyX published detailed summaries of the winning solutions, including considerations for implementation and adaptation. To learn more about the challenge, visit

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