Mary Gates Endowment For Students


Faculty PI:

Benjamin Freedman, Ph.D.

Immediate Mentor/Supervisor:

Giulia Spennatti, Ph.D.

Project or Start-Up Company Name:


Lab/Project Website:

Work Location:

850 Republican St., Room N530

Work Hours (include recurring team meetings, special events, etc.):

Flexible hours based on weekly work, typically 9-5 hours, some weekends may be required. Lab meetings on Wednesday mornings at 9AM.

Overall Program Goal:

Kidney disease affects one in ten Americans, with limited therapies available. Diabetes is one of the most common causes of kidney disease. We have invented human mini-kidney structures (organoids) that can be grown en masse in the lab. The mini-kidneys show symptoms of human diseases. We have used these previously to develop a novel functional model of diabetic kidney disease, in which sensitive filtering cells (podocytes) change their shape and migrate out of organoids in response to high levels of glucose in the media. Currently we are using this to test a handful of potential small molecule compounds (drugs) to reverse this phenotype. This will be the primary focus of this internship.

Intern Project Description and Responsibilities:

The intern will focus on (a) identifying a handful of compounds to test in kidney organoids based on their functional and commercial properties; (b) determine whether the targets of these compounds are expressed in organoids ± glucose based on existing datasets; (c) test whether treatment of organoids with these compounds can prevent diabetic kidney disease phenotypes.


The position is open to all academic backgrounds, but previous lab experience and particularly the ability to pipette and conduct cell culture would be helpful. Familiarity with the kidneys is not required but might be helpful as well.

Level of Independence:

  • The student will work under the direct supervision of a postdoc to learn the ropes of the culture system and conduct the work described above.
  • The student will work together with this postdoc and the senior mentor (Dr. Freedman) to design experiments on a weekly basis. If desired, a second project with greater independence may be conducted in parallel, suited to the student’s particular interests and experience, and related to the general aims of the laboratory in commercializing kidney organoid technology for therapy development (including both chemical and regenerative therapeutics).
  • The student will be expected to participate in lab meetings on a regular basis and will liaison with others in the lab working to translate these technologies from bench to bedside.

Learning Opportunities:

The intern will learn what an organoid is, its main components, and how these cultures can be used in a general way to develop therapies. They’ll also learn about the pathophysiology of diabetic kidney disease.