It’s an exciting time to be part of Kidney Research UK
It’s an exciting time to be part of Kidney Research UK, says our new trustee Professor Simon Davies.
Simon is professor of nephrology and dialysis medicine at Keele University and an honorary consultant nephrologist at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
He decided to join our board of trustees in March 2023 as a way of repaying the charity for kickstarting his research career.
“I’ve received funding from Kidney Research UK on several occasions over the years and this support has always been really important,” says Simon.
“The first grant for a dialysis project came at a critical time in my career and helped establish me as a researcher. It also meant I could then go on and get much more funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research to further my studies, so it really was an important step along the way.
“Now that I’m at a stage in my career where I’m winding up my personal research activities, being a trustee for Kidney Research UK provides the perfect opportunity for me to remain involved in research and help future researchers as they develop their careers.”
Supporting innovation and challenging the status quo
For many years, Simon’s research has concentrated on peritoneal dialysis, especially the role of the peritoneal membrane in determining the success of this treatment for kidney failure. This led to an increasing focus on the management of fluid in both peritoneal and haemodialysis and finding ways to improve the experience of having dialysis treatment for patients.
“When I first heard of the charity 30 years ago, it was simply regarded as a funding body but the charity now has a much broader remit,” says Simon.
“Not only does it give money to people to do research it also creates projects, such as the NURTuRE biobank, which set up opportunities for people to do more research. It also supports people doing research through its drive to encourage the creation of more clinical study groups, with easier access for patients.”
Simon is now chair of our research strategy committee, which oversees the work of the charity to ensure that it is progressing in its drive to accelerate high quality kidney research, bring groups together, support innovation and challenge the status quo.
“I see my job as supporting the charity to deliver on that strategy and that is, I think, quite a wide-ranging task. A lot of it is about priority setting – making sure we really capture what we do and measure it against the strategy, so that we are really clear that we are supporting what we said we would support and, down the line, can show the impact of that research.
“It’s a really exciting time to be part of the charity. It has expanded its horizons and is also talking much more coherently and successfully with other charities, building coalitions of research work with organisations including the Stoneygate Trust and the British Heart Foundation. There are things which these organisations can do together which are more powerful than any one organisation can do on its own. I think this is a really welcome development that will reap huge benefits over the next few years.”
From 2010 to 2012 Simon was president of the International Society of Peritoneal Dialysis, a role which spurred his interest in the problem of equity of access to treatments for kidney failure. He currently co-leads the International Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Failure Strategy and is developing their toolkit for dialysis in resource-limited settings in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as leading health services research on access to home therapies closer to home.
“It's imperative that the research we do and sponsor is translated into better treatments and services that get out into the communities and hospitals and really make a difference to patients’ lives,” says Simon.
“There’s still a lot of inequity in terms of access to treatments and health inequalities are a major part of that. But it’s very obvious to me that Kidney Research UK is committed to tackling this issue and clearly sees it as a priority.”
A passion for music
Away from research, choral music is Simon’s lifelong passion. He conducts the Border Singers, based in Shropshire, and sings regularly with the Manchester Chamber Choir. He also recently completed a research degree in music composition at the University of Birmingham.
“My whole childhood was spent singing. I had music scholarships from the age of nine to 18 and I was a member of the famous Kings College Choir, Cambridge,” says Simon.
“I did try to combine music with my medical studies and applied for a singing scholarship but I was rejected on the grounds of the time I would have to commit to studying medicine.
“I’ve maintained my love of music throughout my career as a renal researcher and I’ve still been able to channel my creativity because I think a large part of doing research is using your creative skills.”