This year’s BRIght Futures Prize finalists are pursuing forward-thinking and inventive research to improve patient care. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Thursday, Nov. 7. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.

Leonardo Riella headshot

Leonardo Riella, MD, PhD

Associate Medical Director, Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program, Division of Renal Medicine

What problem are you trying to solve?

Despite major advances over the years, the survival of transplanted organs is significantly shortened by delays in diagnosing rejection and opportunistic infections.

Currently, more than 50 percent of transplanted organs fail by 12 years after transplant. Expensive and invasive tests such as biopsies are needed to detect problems with the transplanted organ, while blood tests are, unfortunately, slow to detect organ damage and less frequently performed after the first year of transplant. In addition, many countries around the world lack the resources to perform routine blood tests to monitor for opportunistic infections.

What is your solution, and how would the BRIght Futures Prize allow you to pursue this?

We are developing a novel, inexpensive and sensitive urine test to detect early signs of rejection and opportunistic infections after transplantation, allowing patients who have received a kidney transplant to test their urine at home with results in less than one hour. The three main advantages of this test are:

  • No laboratory equipment required
  • Low cost
  • High sensitivity to detect earlier organ injury

To achieve these goals, we will adapt enzymes known as CRISPR/Cas13 to identify both virus and rejection markers, providing the results in a detection test similar to a pregnancy test. We will use the BRIght Futures Prize to optimize the speed and ease of use of this test and check its accuracy using urine samples from patients who have received kidney transplants.

How will your research project benefit people?

If we can better monitor transplanted organs, we will be able to identify potential threats earlier and treat patients before irreversible damage has occurred, prolonging the survival of transplant organs. Since more than 100,000 Americans are awaiting a kidney transplant on dialysis and only around 20,000 kidneys are available annually, prolonging the survival of kidney transplants will improve the lives of patients with kidney disease, help reduce the organ shortage and eliminate the need for recurrent transplant surgeries. Furthermore, it will help lower the expenses of dialysis, which currently costs over $35 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

Collaborators and Affiliations:

This project involves a diverse team, including Jim Collins, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Isadora Lape, BS, Brigham Division of Renal Medicine, and Michael Kaminski, MD, MIT

Other collaborators and researchers involved: Francisco Marty, MD (infectious disease expert); Jamil Azzi, MD (transplant expert); physician assistants Michelle Kopp, PA-C, Jillian Lynch, PA-C, Kaitlyn McGowa, PA-C, Jonathan Andrade, PA-C, and Keri Foley, PA-C; renal fellows John Choi, MD, and Naoka Murakami, MD, PhD; medical students Bruno Aoyama and Mauricio Lima Filho; and postdocs Hazim Allos, PhD, Siawosh Eskandari, PhD, and Rania El Fekih, PhD.


or read more about the other BRIght Futures finalists:

Natalie ArtziFighting Childhood Brain Cancer

Mahmoud L. NasrAn Effective Universal Flu Vaccine

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