Published on March 1, 2022 | The PKD Foundation is pleased to announce that Drs. Alessandra Boletta and Albert Ong are the winners of the 2022 Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize for Advancement In the Understanding of Polycystic Kidney Disease (Kaplan Award). Considered the most prestigious prize in the polycystic kidney field, the honor serves to stimulate members of the global scientific and medical communities to increase or begin research with an outcome leading to a PKD treatment and cure.
Congratulations 2022 Kaplan Award Winners
The Foundation presented the award virtually at the International Society of Nephrology World Congress of Nephrology on February 26. As the 2022 Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize recipients, they received $25,000 each, an inscribed Tiffany & Co. bowl, and a citation depicting their work.
“It’s my distinct pleasure to present Dr. Boletta and Dr. Ong with this momentous award,” President and CEO Andy Betts said. “Their work in studying ADPKD provides PKD patients worldwide with hope for new therapeutic treatments. Thank you to Mr. Kaplan and his gracious commitment to recognizing PKD researchers and their vital research.”
Meet the 2022 Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize for Advancement In the Understanding of Polycystic Kidney Disease Winners
“I am greatly honored and deeply grateful to receive the 2022 Lillian Jean Kaplan Prize for research on PKD. My gratitude goes to mentors and mentees, to collaborators and colleagues for an amazing journey into research. I wish to thank the Kaplan family, the selection committee, the PKD Foundation, and the ISN for honoring me with such a prestigious award.”
—Alessandra Boletta, Ph.D.
Alessandra Boletta, Ph.D., graduated in Biology from the University of Pavia, Italy. She carried out her doctorate-equivalent training at the Mario Negri Institute in Bergamo, Italy, working on gene delivery to the kidney. She went to Johns Hopkins University, USA, for her postdoctoral training. Here, she began her scientific activity on polycystic kidney disease, working on heterologous expression of polycystin-1 aimed at establishing cellular models to investigate the polycystins function.
With support from a Telethon Career Program and a Marie Curie Excellence Award, Dr. Boletta moved back to Italy to establish her lab at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan. While there, she took on the position of director for the Division of Genetics and Cell Biology (2014-2019), and she’s currently head of the research unit. Over the years, her lab has developed several cellular and animal models to study polycystins function and the pathophysiology of ADPKD. Her laboratory has identified metabolic reprogramming as an important feature of the disease, offering several new options for therapy as well as novel insights into the pathogenesis of ADPKD. Dr. Boletta currently serves on the PKD Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
“I am honored and humbled to receive this award on behalf of my research and clinical teams at Sheffield. I wish to thank the Kaplan family for their generosity in funding this award and the ISN and PKD Foundation for considering me worthy of it. It has been an amazing privilege to have been a member of the worldwide PKD community over the past 25 years.”
—Albert Ong, M.D.,
Albert Ong, M.D., is a professor of renal medicine at the University of Sheffield and a consultant nephrologist at the Sheffield Kidney Institute, UK. Born in Malaysia, he graduated from the University of Oxford with degrees in physiological sciences, clinical medicine, and a doctorate in renal cell biology. Following a lectureship at University College London, he was awarded a Kidney Research UK Senior Research Fellowship in genetics at Oxford (Harris lab, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine), where he began working on the genetics and cell biology of ADPKD. After joining the University of Sheffield, he established a new research program in ADPKD, supported initially by a Wellcome Trust Research Leave Award.
The major aim of his laboratory over the past 20 years has been to investigate the molecular basis of cyst formation, in particular, the functions of the ADPKD proteins, polycystin-1, and polycystin-2, in cyst initiation. The focus of clinical and translational research has been to identify genetic and non-genetic factors influencing variability in disease expression, test novel treatments, and introduce innovations to improve patient care. His international leadership roles have included OVERTURE, STAGED-PKD, SONG-PKD, KDIGO-PKD, EAF, and CYSTIC. He currently serves as a member of the ERA Council and the ISN Fellowship Committee.
The Kaplan Award: History and Today
The Kaplan Award was established in 2002 by the PKD Foundation and the International Society of Nephrology. Thomas Kaplan created the award in memory of his mother, Lillian Jean Kaplan, who died in 2002 from PKD. The award recognizes individuals whose scientific work results in tangible achievement toward improving the knowledge and treatment of PKD.
For two decades, Thomas Kaplan has generously donated more than $4.6 million to the PKD Foundation, which includes more than $1 million in support of the Kaplan award. We’d like to thank Thomas Kaplan for his generous support toward helping #endPKD.
Interested in reading more about the Kaplan Award or want to see past recipients? Learn more here. Curious about the latest developments in clinical trials? Consider signing up for our Act Alert program. You can receive ADPKD-related alerts, ARPKD-related alerts, or sign-up for both!