Only 17,105 people received a kidney transplant in the United States last year1 , yet more than 30 million Americans are affected by end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Joseph Uzarski, Ph.D., NRSA postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University and a 2015 Baxter Young Investigator Awards recipient, has dedicated his continuing education and research to helping find a solution.
Joseph seeks to address the severe shortage of kidney donors by engineering a cellularized renal assist device, which is eventually intended to be built using patient-specific cells and implanted in patients with ESRD. He was recognized by Baxter as one of six emerging scientists and engineers whose work has demonstrated potential to save and sustain lives.
"Baxter Young Investigators has allowed me to gain insight into a real-world application setting by a leading healthcare company," says Joseph. "I hope to someday be a principal investigator of my own lab and this experience serves as a major stepping stone."
The Young Investigator Awards, now in its seventh year, has recognized more than 45 young scientists and engineers, following in the footsteps of Baxter's rich tradition in fostering invention that helps make tremendous progress in medical technology. The program also grants exposure to Baxter scientists, providing a forum to discuss the latest scientific knowledge and trends.
“Our work is to ensure patients around the world continue to live a life that is defined by aspiration rather than disease.”- Marcus Schabacker
Chief Scientific Officer at Baxter
"Our work is to ensure patients around the world continue to live a life that is defined by aspiration rather than disease," says Marcus Schabacker, chief scientific officer at Baxter. "Programs like Young Investigators, which enables researchers to help discover new medical advances, are stepping stones to improving patients' lives."
Current graduate and postdoctoral student applicants were selected from a variety of categories, including Instrumental & Analytical Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Device Engineering and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The six, first-tier award winners receive a $2,000 prize and are able to showcase their project, as well as receive a tour and interact with Baxter scientists, at Baxter's Round Lake, Ill., facility. Other award recipients receive a $500 prize.
To be eligible for the awards, candidates must be primarily responsible for their research, which should clearly align with acute and critical care medical products. Bin Li, a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois, noted he was focused on the medical technology industry needs when studying the chemical communication that prevents biofilm formation - a causative agent behind many human diseases and medical-device associated infections.
"Given that biofilms limit the effectiveness of a range of diagnostic medical devices and ultimately harm individuals' health, the results of my research can have a great impact on resolving biofilm growth," says Bin. "Young Investigators provides a platform to share my work with an industrial audience and is a great inspiration for a continued career in scientific study."
Additional projects recognized by Young Investigators include a liquid ink 3D-printing platform, an integrated and automated multi-organ-on-a-chip platform and the engineering of a cartilaginous trachea.
"We need to continue to fill our pipeline with scientists of different minds and different thinking in order to stay at the cutting edge of science, which will be an asset in ensuring our employees continue to develop themselves," says Marcus.
1 National Kidney Foundation. "Organ Donation and Transplantation Statistics." National Kidney Foundation. National Kidney Foundation, 22 April 2015. 16 September 2015.