Creative thinking and doing: Dutch Kidney Foundation

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With the design and implementation of the Neokidney Project the Dutch Kidney Foundation heads for a new ambitious direction. The portable artificial kidney has major positive implications for kidney patients and is indicative of the innovative role that the Kidney Foundation gladly takes on. Major progress has been made since the idea originated.

Two people behind the story of how it all came about are Tom Oostrom, director of the Dutch Kidney Foundation and BarentsKrans partner Marleen van den Horst, member of the Board of the Neokidney Foundation and former member of the Supervisory Board of the Dutch Kidney Foundation. With great dedication and tireless effort they got this development on track, involving a wide range of partners.

Tom: “Marleen and I have known each other for a long time, we’ve been working together for more than a decade and teamwork is key in our relationship. Her great commitment, network, knowledge and legal expertise are extremely important for the Dutch Kidney Foundation.” Marleen: “There is no formal client relationship with our firm. For eight years, I was active on the Supervisory Board of the Dutch Kidney Foundation and for a couple of years now, I’ve been a member of the Board of the Neokidney Foundation. My knowledge of patent law and experience in the pharmaceutical industry are very useful. It’s my personal choice to devote myself to the work of the Kidney Foundation. Social commitment, using my qualities for a good cause, is something I feel strongly about. BarentsKrans supports and facilitates these activities. After the end of my term on the Supervisory Board of the Foundation, the vacant position was filled by Caroline van Gent, who is a partner at BarentsKrans, specialised in employment law.”

Tom: “Many health funds allocate almost all their money for research. We also set innovations  in motion. People know us from special events, like the National Kidney Check in 2007. This was a free test to detect damage to kidneys at an early stage, in which no less than 1.2 million Dutch adults participated! It was really new in the Netherlands. Prevention is better than cure. In addition, we are committed to creating a better life for kidney patients. Traditional dialysis has a huge impact on the daily life of a kidney patient. With the development of a portable artificial kidney, we want the restore the kidney patient’s freedom, providing him or her with more convenience, more effective results and more control.” Marleen: “We felt it was time to pay attention to this development, no one else picked it up. We set the ball rolling, apart from the Kidney Foundation we established a new entity: the Neokidney Foundation. With a special holding company and separate operating company. A new fund with the aim to revolutionise kidney dialysis.”

Envisioned was a public-private partnership with top people in the field of hardware, technology and biomedical expertise. Tom: “That we found in a joint development with Debiotech from Switzerland and Awak from Singapore. Supported by an Advisory Board with leading professors and a solid financial and business plan.” Marleen: “We had discussions with many parties, until we had the right mix. We were on the watch for shelving, participation in the project by a party for the purpose of slowing down the development.” Tom adds: “It is our ambition to generate a revenue stream, of each copy sold, the Neokidney Foundation will receive a royalty. With these proceeds, we can fund the next innovation.”

The financing behind the portable artificial kidney is a story in itself. Tom: “With a project like this it’s very important to get the right people leading the way. After a process of extensive talks and negotiations, we reached a unique agreement with three large Dutch health care insurance providers (Zilveren Kruis, CZ and Menzis), who committed themselves for an investment of € 6.8 million.” Marleen: “An incredible success, never before have insurers joined forces in such manner to enable innovation in healthcare. This innovative character reflects on everyone.”

Tom Oostrom is already thinking ahead: the artificial kidney 2.0. The implantable version. Tom: “We want to have an impact, creative thinking and …doing!”