Clinical Trial Highlights


Neptune logo

The Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network (NEPTUNE) trial is a multicenter research network for Idiopathic Nephrotic Syndrome (NS), a rare syndrome responsible for approximately 12% of all causes of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and up to 20% of ESRD in children. The major causes of NS are Focal and Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), Minimal Change Disease (MCD) and Membranous Nephropathy (MN), all rare but serious conditions that can eventually lead to kidney failure.  Current treatment strategies include high dose prolonged steroid therapy and the use of immunosuppressive agents including cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine A, tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil and others. All of these options carry significant side effects, and patients who do not achieve remission with them often progress to ESRD.

The goals of the NEPTUNE study are to better understand the underlying mechanism of MCD, FSGS and MN, to identify and test novel treatments targeting the specific disease mechanism and develop matching blood or urine tests to identify the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.

Matthias Kretzler, M.D.
Matthias Kretzler, M.D.

The network was launched in 2010 at 15 centers in the U.S. and Canada, with U-M functioning as the main operational center, and has enrolled more than 600 patients in a prospective cohort study. It also has established a patient registry containing information from more than 1,800 patients. The network has since grown to include physician-scientists from 22 academic medical centers across North America. In October, 2014, The National Institutes of Health announced its continued commitment to NEPTUNE, renewing a second five-year funding cycle. U-M is also making a significant contribution to funding the consortium. NEPTUNE is supporting more than 40 ancillary studies using the research networks for a wide spectrum of efforts, including whole genome sequencing, proteomics, digital histopathology, patient self-reported outcomes and multiple interventional trials.

“With the expanding clinical, pathological and genomic data that have already been collected in NEPTUNE, the network is now using this comprehensive information to initiate molecular, targeted treatments to improve health outcomes for patients with nephrotic syndrome,” says U-M nephrologist Matthias Kretzler, M.D., NEPTUNE’s principal investigator.

To learn more about NEPTUNE, visit


CureGN logo

Glomerulonephropathy, also known as Primary glomerular disease (GDPrime), is a group of diseases that lead to progressive loss of kidney function over many years and contribute to a significant percentage of new ESRD cases diagnosed annually. Four different diseases comprise GDPrime: minimal change disease (MCD), focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IGAN), and idiopathic membranous nephropathy (IMN).

The Cure Glomerulonephropathy Network (formerly the GDPrime consortium) was established in 2013 to support ongoing multidisciplinary, collaborative research into disease mechanisms and therapeutic pathways, identification and validation of outcomes, early phase testing of novel therapies and effective public-private-patient advocate partnerships.

The network’s primary focus is CureGN, a multicenter five-year cohort study of 2,400 pediatric and adult glomerular disease patients funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Participants are being followed longitudinally to better understand the causes of disease, response to therapy, and disease progression, with the ultimate objective to cure glomerulonephropathy.

The patient information and specimens generated by this study, along with the requisite scientific and analytic capacity, will be managed through the consortium’s data coordinating center (DCC). CureGN is extending the NEPTUNE study approach to a wide spectrum of patients and diseases with the goal of a lifelong follow-up. It is housed at the University of Michigan and led by Matthias Kretzler, M.D., Debbie Gipson, M.D., Bruce Robinson, M.D. and Brenda Gillespie, Ph.D.

To find out more about enrolling a patient in the CureGN trial, visit

Baricitinib for Diabetic Nephropathy

Frank C. Brosius III, M.D.
Frank C. Brosius III, M.D.

The breakthrough work of U-M nephrology investigators isn’t limited to rare kidney ailments – some of the same advances hold promise for more common conditions, too – notably diabetic kidney disease, a threat to about 30% of the nearly 2 million patients diagnosed with diabetes each year.

U-M nephrology researchers led by Frank Brosius, M.D., Chief of the U-M Division of Nephrology, and Matthias Kretzler, M.D., are partnering with Eli Lilly and Company in an ongoing phase 2 clinical study with patients that have mild to moderate diabetic kidney disease. The trial will evaluate whether the drug baricitinib, a JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor developed to treat arthritis and skin diseases, might be repurposed to help prevent the progression of diabetic nephropathy.

"Dr. Kretzler put together a network of research teams to establish a worldwide human genome-wide renal gene expression consortium,” noted Brosius, who, along with Kretzler, led the U-M group that participated in the NIH-sponsored Animal Models of Diabetic Complications Consortium, which concluded in 2011. "Then my group provided the animal model studies and the in-depth understanding of diabetic complications that allowed us to focus on the pathway. This highly collaborative approach makes U-M one of the only places in the world with the combined expertise to move this project forward."

To find out more about the trial, visit (identifier: NCT01683409