USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center

Opening its doors in 2015, the Nephrology Division’s Kidney Research Center (KRC) is supported by private funding, primarily from the University Kidney Research Organization, federal grants from the NIH and US Dept of Defense, University grants and supporting funds. The KRC is under the direction of the Nephrology Division Chief, Dr. Kenneth Hallows, as well as Associate Professor Dr. Nuria Pastor-Soler and Assistant Professors Drs. Zhongwei Li and Eugene Lin. The KRC is staffed with a team of 13 faculty, staff, and students.

The University Kidney Research Organization (UKRO) is an LA-based philanthropic organization founded by entertainment lawyer, Kenneth Kleinberg, and USC nephrologist, Dr. Vito Campese. The mission of UKRO is to raise fundraising support for medical research and education related to the causes, treatment, and eradication of all forms of kidney disease. The UKRO joined the Keck School of Medicine in 2012 to create a premier center nationally recognized for kidney research, the KRC.


Fellowship Leadership Research

Dr. Kenneth Hallows, Nephrology Division Chief, is studying the metabolic control of kidney epithelial salt and water transport mechanisms with relevance to hypertension, acute kidney injury, and chronic kidney disease. Dr. Hallows studies the role of metabolic changes in autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease at multiple levels: 1) molecular and cellular level using in vitro model systems and electrophysiological, molecular genetics, biochemical, and imaging techniques, 2) animal disease models using in vivo imaging and functional studies, and 3) patient samples.

Dr. Nuria Pastor-Soler, Nephrology Associate Professor, is studying molecular and cellular mechanisms by which metabolic pathways in the kidney are affected by acidosis, a known predictor of CKD progression. Dr. Pastor-Soler also studies renal cell carcinomas with the aim to confirm a novel biomarker that could be used clinically to assess the presence and severity of the disease.

Dr. Eugene Lin, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is a health services researcher with a focus on economic policies pertaining to nephrology. His research interests are in cost-effectiveness and assessing the impact of financial incentives on patient outcomes.

Dr. Zhong Wei Li, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, studies ways to build transplantable kidneys. His research combines state-of-the-art stem cell technologies and engineering methodologies and aims to bridge basic studies of kidney organogenesis and translational applications of stem/progenitor cell-based kidney regeneration and disease modeling, with the long-term goal of rebuilding the kidney.

To learn more about what our other faculty are researching, please click on their names below:

Arshia Ghaffari, DO Mitra Nadim, MD, FASN
Elaine Kaptein, MD Saeid Nosrati, MD
Yasir Qazi, MD Miroslaw Smogorzewski, MD, PhD
Hui Yi Shan, MD
Thin Thin Maw, MD, MBBS

To learn more about the Division of Nephrology’s research, please visit the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center and UKRO Charity website. For inquiries about Division of Nephrology research, please email the Program Director, Dr. Hui Yi Shan at

Areas of Basic & Translational Research:

Dr. Kenneth hallows at the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center

Dr. Kenneth hallows at the USC/UKRO Kidney Research Center

  • Mechanisms of Hypertension

  • Kidney Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine

  • Acute Kidney Injury

  • Acid Regulation and its role in CKD

  • Polycystic Kidney Disease

  • Metabolomic Biomarkers

  • Kidney Cancer

  • Noradrenergic Control of Blood Pressure in Kidney Disease

Calcium image of in vitro glomerulus with attached blood vessel

Calcium image of in vitro glomerulus with attached blood vessel

Areas of Clinical Research:

  • Testing of Novel Therapeutics in Polycystic Kidney Disease

  • Mechanisms & Management of Vascular Calcifications in Dialysis Patients

  • Health Economics of Kidney Disease

  • Urgent-Start Peritoneal Dialysis

  • Detection & Management of Cardiovascular Disease in Dialysis Patients

  • Prevention of Progressive Renal Disease in African-Americans

  • New Experimental Therapeutics in Kidney Transplantation

  • Enhancing Assessment of Intravascular Volume and Response to Ultrafiltration in Critically Ill Patients


Some of our Highlighted Publications from the past few years are:

Other Division Accomplishments include:

  • Launched only current investigator-initiated clinical drug trial at the Keck School of Medicine

  • Record number of living donor and overall kidney transplants in 2018

  • Faculty received Outstanding Year II Course Award for Renal Systems Course

Honors and Awards:

  • Dr. Zhongwei Li received the 2018 Wright Foundation Pilot Award

  • Dr. Mitra Nadim received the Outstanding Year II Course Award from the Keck School of Medicine. Dr. Nadim also nominated for the Excellence in Professionalism Award by the Keck Hospital of USC. In 2017, she was also listed as one of Southern California’s Super Doctors by LA Magazine.

  • Dr. Yasir Qazi was listed as a 2018 Top Doctor in LA Magazine and is a Castle Connolly America doctor at USC.

  • Dr. Kenneth Hallows received the Investigator-Initiated Research and Clinical Trial Awards from the U.S. Dept of Defense in 2017. He was also recognized by the NIH as the Principal Investigator for two papers on kidney diseases.

  • Dr. Arshia Ghaffari received the Core Value Award from DaVita Healthcare Partners in 2017

  • Dr. Nuria Pastor-Soler received the Dean’s Pilor Funding Grant Award in 2017

  • Dr. Biagio Saitta had the Best Poster and Award at the ORS SoCal Regional Symposium at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center