4 June, 2023


KENS – A Lifesaving Startup For Kidney Patients In Sri Lanka

By S.C. Atulugama –

S.C. Atulugama

What if you could donate a kidney for your loved one and save their life even when your blood types don’t match? Let’s take a look at how this new startup tries to make this a reality. 

What is KENS?

“Kidney Donor Needed”. We have seen similar posts being shared over and over again on various social media platforms. Many a times we have seen children, parents and spouses desperately looking for a donor to save the life of their mother, father, brother, sister, husband or wife because their blood types don’t match to donate the organ themselves.  Now we have a solution for that!

KENS- Kidney Exchange Network of Sri Lanka is a Social Enterprise designed to facilitate paired-exchange of Kidneys for patients in End-stage Kidney Failure. KENS comes as a mobile app which will pair two live donors to two patients in a process called “paired- exchange” enabling two simultaneous kidney transplants in one go!

In paired exchange, an incompatible donor/ recipient pair (such as a mother and son that don’t have compatible blood types) are matched with another incompatible donor/recipient pair for a “swap”. Each donor gives a kidney to the other person’s intended recipient.

A Kidney Paired Exchange Program assists donor/patient pairs who are incompatible or poorly matched with each other to find another donor/patient pair with whom they can exchange kidneys to enable more favorable compatibility and allow a transplant to take place.

The role of KENS here is to facilitate incompatible donor-patient pairs to meet other incompatible donor-patient pairs who are mutually compatible among the two pairs. KENS will run a matching algorithm for donor-patient pairs who have registered on the system, based on their blood types.

The Problem

Over 1100 patients with Chronic Renal Disease (CRD) are admitted to hospitals per month in Sri Lanka, and each year, more than 5000 new kidney patients are identified with end stage renal disease (ESRD). Patients in End Stage Kidney Failure have two options; either get regular hemodialysis done, or undergo a kidney transplant. Health authorities estimated that Sri Lanka needed at least 1,000 dialysis machines, but there are only 178 machines in public hospitals. At present, there’s no national organ transplant list or any other such source that would facilitate organ transplantation. Hence, 8 out of every 10 patients in End Stage Renal Disease die due to lack of kidneys for transplantation.

Expected Social Effect

Until a kidney transplant is done, a patient in end stage renal failure has to undergo regular hemodialysis; and a critically ill patient has to undergo dialysis at least twice a week. One session of hemodialysis can cost anywhere between 60-80 USD in Sri Lanka. It also requires patients to set aside three to five hours for treatment plus travel to and from the center two times a week. All in all, one year of hemodialysis can cost up to one million Sri Lankan rupees, which is a huge cost for a patient in a developing country. Considering the number of patients with ESRD, facilitating renal transplants will save billions of rupees for both the government and the patients.

Closing Remarks

KENS is a social enterprise with a non-profit business model and hence it will be available to patients with ESRD for free.

This is the first app of its kind in Sri Lanka and in the Asia-Pacific where organ donation programs are not as efficient as in the West and hence organs for transplantation are always in high demand. Short-term goal of KENS is to save 1000 lives by the end of 2018.

In the future, KENS will act as an accessory program to the National Transplant List/Deceased Donor Program once it is established.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    What a useful and great article, quite unlike the others on CT where we comment like hell!
    Thanks Mr.Atulugama and CT.

    • 1

      S.C. Atulugama,

      RE: KENS – A Lifesaving Startup For Kidney Patients In Sri Lanka

      “KENS comes as a mobile app which will pair two live donors to two patients in a process called “paired- exchange” enabling two simultaneous kidney transplants in one go!”

      Thanks for developing this app that will get most efficiency out of the current transplant inefficiency and save more lives. Can’t Sri Lanka manufacture some of the Kidney Dialysis Machines and the disposables and save on the costs?

      While these are treating the symptoms of kidney disease, focus should also be on the causes of kidney disease. Is it lifestyle, food, environmental or genetic factors? To what extent will education help?


      How to prevent kidney disease?

      The best way to keep our kidneys healthy is to reduce our risk factors. Whilst certain risks cannot be avoided, such as aging, family history of diabetes/hypertension, or genetic propensity to kidney disease, other factors such as lifestyle choices will help keep our kidneys healthy. It is possible to reduce your risk of chronic kidney disease by:

      Avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation
      Maintaining a healthy weight for your height by daily physical activity and reducing calories
      Quitting smoking
      Managing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and unhealthy cholesterol levels which increase the risk of kidney disease
      Getting regular kidney disease tests for patients who are at risk
      Cutting down on salt, red meat, sugar sweetened drinks, processed foods and sugar
      Avoiding excessive use of certain medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Always follow instructions with over the counter medication especially long term pain killer use and take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
      Eating fresh fruit and vegetables
      Drinking 8 glasses of water a day

      • 1

        Hello Mr. Amarasiri,

        It would indeed be great if we could manufacture dialysis machines in Sri Lanka but a patient bad enough to be on dialysis will inevitably have to undergo a kidney transplant, one cannot be on dialysis forever- at least in Sri Lanka (in developed countries, patients can live up to 20 years on dialysis).

        Preventive measures will greatly contribute towards combating non communicable diseases and education on this regard will help a lot. We are planning to launch a youth movement to combat and educate the public about non communicable diseases and how to prevent them. It will also urge the young people in our country to adopt healthy lifestyle from early on so that the risk of getting these diseases later in life is much reduced.

        Thank you for your kind comments!
        S.C. Atulugama

  • 3

    Thanks for the welcome initiative.
    But should not the medical fraternity look into the preventive side of renal disease?
    The incidence of renal failure is rather high for the country.
    Bad food habits and unsafe water are serious concerns.
    Should not preventive medicine take priority now?

    • 3

      While preventive measures are also important, this is to make sure that the patients who are already in kidney failure get a second chance in life.

    • 4

      A great service Mr.Atulugama. CKD is a great tragedy and we all should do whatever we can to alleviate this curse.My salutes to you for taking this effort forward.


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