Newswise — WINSTON-SALEM, NC, December 13, 2023 - The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) has received a $6 million grant from the National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. Alongside five other North Carolina institutions, the collaborative effort aims to address critical issues and advance research in the fields of kidney, urology and hematology. Dr. Anthony Atala, the W. Boyce professor and chair of urology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and director of WFIRM, Dr. Ronald Falk, Nan and Hugh Cullman Eminent professor of medicine at UNC, and Dr. Thomas Ortel, professor of medicine at Duke University, are the principal investigators of the five year grant from the NIH National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The goal of the program developed under this award, named the NC KUH Training, Research, Innovation and Outreach (TRIO), is designed to cultivate a highly skilled cohort of people and resources to advance research for patients with kidney disease, urological disorders, and hematological conditions such as sickle cell disease.

“WFIRM will be generating a regenerative medicine focus,” said Atala, who is co-principal investigator for the grant. “Our researchers have decades of expertise in the field of tissue regeneration and precision medicine through organ-on-a-chip that we are excited to contribute to the partnership.” Atala, a practicing surgeon and urologist at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, will be guiding the project’s urology focus. The research team also includes Chris Porada and Dr. Graca Almeida-Porada, professors at WFIRM, as the leads for the hematology area with expertise in cell and gene therapies, and James Yoo, associate director at WFIRM, as the lead for professional development training.

This new initiative is the result of organizations across a variety of disciplines and universities who are deeply committed to advancing medical knowledge and improving patient outcomes. The multi-institutional collaboration includes the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, Winston-Salem State University, and North Carolina Central University.

The primary objectives of this grant-funded research training initiative are to:

  • Provide state of the art training for students and early investigators in kidney diseases, urological disorders, and hematology conditions
  • Advance the understanding of these diseases through this training and collaborative program
  • Develop innovative diagnostic tools, therapies, and treatment options
  • Improve patient care and outcomes through leading-edge research and clinical trials
  • Foster collaborations that bring together the best minds across fields as well as their intersections

“What makes this grant different is the professional development and training components,” said Joan Schanck, chief education program officer for WFIRM and program coordinator for the grant. “These institutions have existing legacies in cutting edge research, but we are now combining that expertise with outreach programs and education efforts to increase awareness and drive progress.”

In addition, the collaborative nature of this project will create a dynamic ecosystem of researchers, clinicians, and educators working together to accelerate real life treatments for patients. For more information about this grant and the collaborative research initiative, please visit

About Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine: The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is recognized as an international leader in translating scientific discovery into clinical therapies, with many world firsts, including the development and implantation of the first engineered organ in a patient. Over 450 people at the institute, the largest in the world, work on more than 40 different tissues and organs. A number of the basic principles of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine were first developed at the institute. WFIRM researchers have successfully engineered replacement tissues and organs in all four categories – flat structures, tubular tissues, hollow organs and solid organs – and 16 different applications of cell/tissue therapy technologies, such as skin, urethras, cartilage, bladders, muscle, kidney, and vaginal organs, have been successfully used in human patients. The institute, which is part of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, is located in the Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem, NC, and is driven by the urgent needs of patients. The institute is making a global difference in regenerative medicine through collaborations with over 500 entities and institutions worldwide, through its government, academic and industry partnerships, its start-up entities, and through major initiatives in breakthrough technologies, such as tissue engineering, cell therapies, diagnostics, drug discovery, biomanufacturing, nanotechnology, gene editing and 3D printing.

Media Contact: Emily Gregg, [email protected]