UAlberta researcher awarded 2013 Medal for Research Excellence from Kidney Foundation of Canada

Marcello Tonelli recognized for changing nephrology practice in Canada and beyond

Kidney Foundation of Canada, FoMD staff - 15 November 2013

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Marcello Tonelli has been awarded the Kidney Foundation's 2013 Medal for Research Excellence. Tonelli was the first to show that statin treatment is effective in managing the cardiovascular risk associated with the early stages of chronic kidney disease. His innovative research has changed Canadian drug policy, improved the health of vulnerable populations, and informed both national and international clinical practice. Tonelli is a nephrologist and professor in the Department of Medicine at the U of A.

"Receiving this award from the Kidney Foundation of Canada is especially meaningful to me because the Foundation got me started by supporting my training as a researcher," says Tonelli. "It's a tremendous honour to be recognized along with the many accomplished scientists who've received this award in the past."

People with chronic kidney disease are at increased risk for cardiovascular events and are more likely to die of heart failure than to develop kidney failure. Tonelli's groundbreaking research in the area of cholesterol reduction led the way in improving treatment for these patients. His more recent research indicates that statin therapy may also reduce the rate of kidney function loss and lessen the risk of acute kidney failure.

"Dr. Tonelli's work has shaped national and international clinical practice guidelines for the management of lipid abnormalities in kidney patients," says Barbara Ballerman, chair of the Department of Medicine.

At the population health level, Tonelli's work has changed Canadian drug policy. His economic analyses are frequently cited when evaluating the cost versus health benefit of two drugs central to the treatment and long-term survival of dialysis patients: erythropoietin (used to help control blood pressure) and sevelamer (used to manage high blood levels of phosphorous, a mineral whose build up can cause heart problems).

More recently, his finding that remote-dwelling patients with kidney failure are more likely to die due to lack of access to kidney transplantation as a mode of treatment, has encouraged considerable discussion and informed decision-making regarding optimal care provision to this vulnerable population.

Author of more than 280 peer-reviewed publications, many in the highest ranked scientific journals, and immediate past president of the Canadian Society of Nephrology, Tonelli is also a Canada Research Chair in optimal care for people with chronic kidney disease. He is volunteer chair of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Task Group, leading an international group that will inform Canada's 36,000 family physicians about best practices in disease prevention.

Established in 1996, the Medal for Research Excellence is presented annually to a Canadian resident who is recognized for excellence in kidney-related research; and whose work is deemed by peers as having improved the treatment and care of people living with kidney disease