Using Math to Solve the Kidney Disease Equation
Rejuvenate Kidney Transplant Solutions reimagines kidney care by finding ways to help patients access kidney transplants faster and avoid the cost and negative impact of dialysis.
Rejuvenate’s solutions were made possible in part by its co-founder, Nobel laureate Alvin Roth, an economics professor who helped revolutionize kidney donation. Roth’s innovations have led to more than 15,000 additional transplants worldwide.
The origins of a market for kidney exchange
In the early 1980s, Roth called on his students to help solve problems people face in their everyday lives – an area of study known as market design. He sparked discussions using the housing market as an example of a model in which indivisible goods could be traded without money.
“Students would sometimes say, ‘But professor, we use money for houses,’” remembers Roth. “We were living in Pittsburgh, which has a big transplant center, and in self-defense, I would say, well, suppose instead of houses we were talking about kidneys?”
Thus, creating a market for kidney exchange happened by coincidence.
“If this were a novel, there would be a heartwarming story about someone I knew who had kidney failure,” says Roth. “In fact, I came to it through mathematics.”
Roth and his students began focusing on solving the kidney disease equation through trading kidneys to help those in need of lifesaving transplants.
Years later, Roth saw a newspaper article about the first kidney exchange between two donor-recipient pairs in the U.S.
“I thought, I know something that might be relevant to trying to scale up these efforts,” says Roth.
He and his colleagues wrote a proposal to design a clearinghouse for kidney exchange. Roth also teamed up with transplant surgeon Dr. Mike Rees to brainstorm ways to reach patients across the country and around the world.
“Over time, we’ve been able to help our surgical colleagues make kidney exchange more efficient and more effective so that it takes care of lots of patients,” says Roth.
Founding Rejuvenate Kidney Transplant Solutions
The method developed by Roth and his colleagues has become a standard form of transplantation in the U.S. He and Rees also teamed up once again – this time to help patients access transplants earlier in the kidney disease process.
“Earlier is better because while dialysis keeps you alive, it’s a difficult process,” says Roth.
“The idea for Rejuvenate Kidney Transplant Solutions is that if we can talk to employers not only about how much better transplant is as health care but also about how much cheaper it is than dialysis, then we can start a virtuous cycle of getting patients transplanted earlier, which saves lives and money,” he says.
Today, Rejuvenate partners with brokers, benefits consultants, captives and self-insured employers to transform lives and greatly reduce health care costs by creating opportunities for kidney transplants.
“We’re smoothing out the logistics to help a lot more patients,” says Roth.