Ballad Health, Niswonger Foundation Make Lifesaving Investment to Enhance Availability of Kidneys for Transplant, Reduce Costs of Care

New procedure gives hope to thousands of people awaiting transplant, supports Ballad Health’s goal of saving 100,000 years of life over the next decade while reducing cost for individuals, employers and taxpayers

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn., May 08, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- More than 100,000 people are currently on the national transplant waiting list for a kidney. While waiting, most must rely upon expensive and invasive dialysis services to remain alive. Sadly, while so many people are waiting for a kidney for transplant, more than 8,500 kidneys donated in the United States each year never reach a recipient and are discarded.

On Saturday, April 20, a team of perfusionists from 34 Lives, a Ballad Ventures portfolio company, used a combination of 34 Lives technology and logistics to rescue a human kidney that had originally been deemed not usable for transplant. The rescued kidney was successfully transplanted into a recipient who had been on dialysis for almost two years and has now been successfully discharged from the hospital to home. The transplant was performed at Indiana University Health by Dr. Bill Goggins, Professor of Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Funded by a partnership that includes Johnson City, Tennessee-based Ballad Ventures, the venture capital subsidiary of Ballad Health; Greeneville, Tennessee-based Niswonger Foundation; and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), 34 Lives uses innovative technology to rescue hard-to-place kidneys and state-of-the-art logistics to transport these fragile organs from donor to recipient. 34 Lives, a company formed at Purdue University, is conducting an Implementation Study throughout the United States that will document 80 rescued kidneys in collaboration with 10 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) and four transplant hospitals: Indiana University Heath, Mt. Sinai (New York), University of Wisconsin and University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.

According to the NKF, nearly 750,000 Americans have irreversible kidney failure. Kidney transplantation not only provides a higher quality of life to individuals who, because of the transplant, will no longer need dialysis, but it also improves the individual’s life expectancy. 

While improving access to transplantation lengthens and improves quality of life, it also has the potential to save taxpayers, consumers, insurers and employers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The cost to Medicare for an individual to remain on dialysis for one year can exceed $100,000. For a commercial insurer, the cost can be as high as $300,000. Potentially eliminating the need for dialysis for thousands of patients per year will save the American healthcare system hundreds of millions of dollars annually, once scaled.

“When we began investing in new healthcare technologies three years ago, we made the commitment to invest where we could improve lives, while reducing the overall cost of care for individuals, employers and taxpayers,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “End-stage renal disease is one of the most disruptive, dispiriting and expensive conditions, and the potential to dramatically reduce the wait for a kidney transplant by investing and participating in the governance of 34 Lives fits our mission of honoring those we serve.”

Marvin Eichorn, chief administrative officer of Ballad Health and 34 Lives board member, has helped guide 34 Lives from its initial formation up to this important milestone of the first transplant of a rescued kidney into a recipient.

“The leadership team of 34 Lives has more than 100 years of experience in transplantation, healthcare, policy and technology,” Eichorn said. “I’m excited about their potential to continue to reach more people in need locally and nationally as we grow.”

Niswonger Foundation Chairman Scott Niswonger added, “I can think of no better investment of time, resources and energy than to help people who suffer from kidney disease have hope for a better quality of life – and a longer life. I am proud of my friends at Purdue University who supported the research and effort to bring this opportunity to market, and I am proud that Ballad Ventures and the Niswonger Foundation have partnered to bring 34 Lives to the forefront of this technology and logistics for those who need it.”

“Investment in technology and better ways to provide care, such as with 34 Lives, is core to Ballad Health’s mission,” said Anthony Keck, Ballad Health’s executive vice president of system transformation, chief population health officer and board chair of Ballad Ventures. “That a rural health system and foundation from the Appalachian Highlands are on the forefront of saving lives and improving the quality of life for potentially thousands of people per year is no accident. The Appalachian Highlands has a lot to contribute to saving lives, reducing cost and improving lives, and we are proud to have made this investment.”

News of 34 Lives’ first transplanted kidney comes on the heels of another Ballad Ventures success story – LifeFlow, a rapid infuser for blood and fluids produced by 410 Medical. This new technology helps treat life-threatening conditions such as sepsis. Ballad Health’s investment in 410 Medical and the adoption of LifeFlow at several of its hospitals has already generated positive outcomes for patients and accolades from clinical staff.

To learn more about the work of 34 Lives, please visit

More information about Ballad Health is available at, and more information about the work of Ballad Ventures to pursue innovations that are intended to enhance patient care and have the potential to reach patients and healthcare delivery systems nationally and worldwide is available at


About Ballad Health
Ballad Health is an integrated community health improvement organization serving 29 counties of the Appalachian Highlands in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Northwest North Carolina and Southeast Kentucky. Our system of 20 hospitals, post-acute care and behavioral health services, and a large multi-specialty group physician practice works closely with an active independent medical community and community stakeholders to improve the health and well-being of close to one million people. By leading in the adoption of value-based payments, addressing health-related social needs, funding clinical and health systems research and committing to long-term investments in strong children and families in our region, Ballad Health is striving to become a national model for rural health and healthcare. Learn more at

About Ballad Ventures
Ballad Ventures is a venture capital platform focused on investing in innovative ideas which transform health care experience, cost, access, and outcomes for the benefit of those we serve. As the venture capital arm of Ballad Health, the wholly-owned subsidiary seeks opportunities which forward the mission, vision, and strategic initiatives of the organization.

About the Niswonger Foundation
The Niswonger Foundation was established in 2001 to to create opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other sustainable projects. This dream was envisioned by Scott M. Niswonger, who founded Landair Transport, Inc. and Forward Air Corporation. These companies were the first two Greeneville-based companies to be taken public in the history of Greene County, Tennessee. Jointly, the companies have combined annual revenue of over four-billion-dollars and employ more than 5,000 people.

About 34 Lives
34 Lives is a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) headquartered at the Purdue University Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana. The firm is committed to saving the lives of patients awaiting kidney transplant by providing innovative solutions that can give hard-to-place kidneys a second chance and enough time to make it to a waiting patient. A Central Preservation and Assessment Service to Optimize Donor Kidney Allocation, OPTIMAL, the firm’s research protocol, can be found at [Identifier NCT06263023]. To learn more about the work of 34 Lives, visit the website at


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