Esther Silverman set up KRAF (Kidney Research Aid Fund) in 1973. She noticed that there was a distinct lack of support for kidney disease – unlike all the big cancer and heart charities – so she placed an advert in her local paper asking for help. Esther had a wonderful response from some very well-connected and determined people who all had first-hand experience of the difficulties involved in living with kidney disease. This dynamic group was absolutely key in being able to entice the patronage of some extremely well-known figures of the era such as: Sir John Mills; Frank Thornton; Patricia Routledge. Their support for KRAF and, subsequently, Kids Kidney Research (the name was changed in 2006) continued over the decades and, to this day, Patricia remains one of our most valued patrons.
Originally, all money raised went to the Renal Unit at Great Ormond Street where Professor Martin Barrett, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Nephrology at both GOSH and the Institute of Child Health was practising. Martin was one of the first of a new breed of specialist paediatricians, dedicated to full-time NHS hospital and university service, with a major commitment to research. At the time he entered the field most childhood kidney diseases were poorly understood. Martin saw research to improve understanding of diseases as inextricably linked to the provision of good clinical care. His combination of intellect, passion for research, scientific rigour and his warm and supportive nature attracted a succession of bright, aspiring clinician-scientists to work with him. His scientific contributions to understanding children’s kidney disease included new methods to:
He led early clinical trials that established effectiveness of immunosuppressive treatments of the nephrotic syndrome that remain in use today.
The decision to raise funds for children’s kidney disease was made because the original committee recognised that, although they were all adults, or related to adults, with kidney disease, many would not have been in the position they were in had their conditions been treated in childhood.
Over 40 years on, we are still all volunteers (apart from one part-time administrator) and, on average, over 95% of all funds received will be spent on research projects at hospitals and laboratories all over England.