Cedar Rapids Couple Commits $1 Million for UI PKD Research

University of Iowa graduates Jared S. and Carol Tangen Hills of Cedar Rapids have made a $1 million gift commitment to advance the university's research efforts on polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited disorder affecting nearly one in 1,000 Americans.

Support from the Jared and Carol Hills Polycystic Kidney Disease Research Fund, established through the UI Foundation, will help researchers in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine to better understand the causes of, and identify possible treatments for, PKD.

"We are very grateful for the Hills's generous and far-reaching gift to help us understand and find treatments for this devastating disease," says John Stokes. "We now know the defective genes that cause PKD and are in a position to determine exactly why they cause cysts in the kidney. These cysts are an integral part of the process of how affected kidneys ultimately fail. Investigators at the University of Iowa now have the opportunity to test new ideas and treatment strategies."

The gift from the Hills will allow UI PKD researchers to test the feasibility of new ideas and subsequently pursue the most promising lines of investigation. Such studies often can help secure additional research support from national organizations and federal agencies. Another possible use of the Hills PKD Research Fund is to attract and retain leading PKD scientists at the UI.

"We have great confidence that the researchers at the University of Iowa can make significant contributions to finding better treatments for a disease that has affected our family," says Carol Hills. "We hope that one day there will be a cure."

Jared Hills has PKD and received a kidney transplant in February 2007. "I am so thankful for the kidney donation from our niece," he says. "It made a new man out of me."

Brenda Duello, a UI Foundation executive director of development for the UI Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics, says that the kind of private gift support the Hills provided is crucial both to advancing the UI's research into PKD and to helping secure other sources of private and public funding for the same work at Iowa.

"It's been my privilege to know the Hills for 13 years, and it was gratifying to see their firm belief in the difference their commitment will make toward better understanding a disease that has touched them so personally," Duello says.

Jared Hills received a bachelor's degree in engineering from the UI in 1959; he is president of Divine Engineering Inc. in Cedar Rapids. Carol Hills received her bachelor's degree in nursing from the UI in 1959 and was a nurse in the Cedar Rapids Community Schools.