Around that time, Rahfeld needed to decide whether he wanted to pursue an academic career beyond his postdoc. With this discovery, he’d have a lot of options. Instead, he decided to found a company with seven others. “I’m curious and impatient. And I want to see the discovery have an effect on people, clinically, right away,” he told me. “I want to make a difference.”
Nguan told me that the discovery would change the way he can do his job. Which, as he sees it, is to “improve access to, and quality of life for kidney patients.”
In the kidney transplant world, patients get a lot of bad news. Either that there isn’t a kidney available, or that one is available, but not a match — blood group is the first rule in allocating organs. Organ transplants are the best solution by far for most causes of end stage organ failure.
So patients are constantly on the edge, waiting. “When you tell patients there’s no kidney for them, they get really depressed and emotional, and so do their families. It means they’re still relegated to a life on dialysis,” said Nguan.
For a physician, it’s emotionally difficult too. “When you’ve been seeing someone for years, and they haven’t been transplanted yet, it’s hard. You know they could be saved.”
The best days are ones where he gets a call about an available kidney for a patient on the waitlist. “It’s the best feeling in the world to tell someone, ‘There’s a kidney we want to offer you.’”