UMN Researcher Honored for Polycystic Kidney Disease Work

Monday, March 16, 2015

Peter Igarashi, MDPeter Igarashi, M.D., is one of two recipients of the Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize for Advancement in the Understanding of Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).

The award is a partnership between the PKD Foundation and International Society of Nephrology (ISN). It recognizes a medical professional or researcher exhibiting excellence and leadership in PKD research and whose work demonstrates tangible achievement toward improving knowledge and treatment of PKD. Igarashi is the head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Igarashi, who exemplifies what it means to be a physician-scientist,” said Brooks Jackson, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the medical school.

The PKD Foundation and ISN established the award in 2002 through the generosity of Thomas Kaplan, in memory of his mother, Lillian Jean Kaplan, who had PKD and died in 2002. The award is to stimulate members of the global scientific and medical communities to increase or begin research leading to a PKD treatment and cure, generate momentum in the PKD field and produce positive public awareness about PKD. The awards presentation took place at the ISN World Congress of Nephrology in Cape Town on March 15.

Igarashi is the Nesbitt Chair and Head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He previously served as Chief of the Nephrology Division at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center where much of his work on PKD was conducted.

Igarashi has 30 years of research experience in kidney development, stem cells and PKD. His laboratory has identified new proteins that control genes and characterized their roles in cystic kidney disease. In addition, Igarashi has studied the role of the primary cilium in the progression of PKD. His group demonstrated that inactivation of a gene needed for the production of the primary cilium causes polycystic kidneys. Recent studies from his laboratory have revealed that non-protein coding genes play a role in PKD and represent potential therapeutic targets.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Riverside, and his M.D. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. He completed residency training in internal medicine at the University of California, Davis Medical Center and a nephrology fellowship at the Yale University School of Medicine.

In addition to Igarashi, Gregory J. Pazour, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School, was also honored with the prize. Pazour received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota. 


There is no treatment or cure for PKD. PKD causes cysts to grow in the kidneys, eventually leading to kidney failure. Once a person has kidney failure, dialysis or a transplant are the only options to treat the damage the disease has caused. Parents with the disease have a 50 percent chance of passing it on to each of their children. Approximately 10 percent of the people diagnosed with PKD have no family history of the disease, with PKD developing as a spontaneous (new) mutation. Once they have it, they have a 50 percent chance of passing it on to each of their children. A relatively rare form of PKD, autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD), affects approximately one in 20,000 children, and often causes death in the first month of life.


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