News Release

Major donation to enhance life-changing kidney research at Leicester

Pioneering research by the University of Leicester into chronic kidney disease has received a major boost on World Kidney Day following a generous £1million donation from long-term supporter and kidney health advocate Jimmy Mayer.

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Leicester

Jimmy and David Mayer

image: Jimmy (left) and son David Mayer (right) at the University of Leicester in 2017. view more 

Credit: University of Leicester

Pioneering research by the University of Leicester into chronic kidney disease has received a major boost on World Kidney Day (10th March 2022) following a generous £1million donation from long-term supporter and kidney health advocate Jimmy Mayer.

This vital funding will enable Leicester’s leading research experts to continue their pioneering work into IgA nephropathy (IgAN), a kidney disease for which there is currently no cure and which affects young adults aged 20 to 30.

Researchers will use this donation to continue to support a core team of scientists dedicated to investigating IgAN, invest in specialist equipment – including acquiring a state-of-the-art system to investigate the genes which are switched on and off in the kidneys in IgAN – and to collaborate further with pharmaceutical companies in the creation of new drugs to treat IgAN.

Mr Mayer has been a long standing supporter of Leicester’s IgAN research including the establishment of the Mayer IgA Nephropathy Laboratory and growing the talented team of investigators, and has now invested more than £4m in philanthropic giving to advance new knowledge and support the development of new treatments and therapies. He said:

“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.”

Already, the team at Leicester has made substantial breakthroughs into understanding the disease, 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 treat IgAN

Professor Jonathan Barratt leads the Renal Research Group within the College of Life Sciences and is an Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. He also holds the title of the Mayer Chair in Renal Medicine. He added:

“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, said:

“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.”

IgA nephropathy affects approximately two to three people per one hundred thousand and ten per cent of patients receiving dialysis in the world. Over time it can hamper the kidney’s ability to filter waste products from the blood and can eventually result in kidney failure.

In the UK, around three million people have chronic kidney disease, whilst 64,000 people are reliant on dialysis or a transplant to stay alive.

Though the disease can affect anyone, IgAN is more common amongst people from East and South East Asian countries, such as India, China and Japan. The team will also continue research which will improve the ability to predict a patients’ risk of developing kidney failure if they have IgAN.

Kidney research at the University of Leicester 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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