Thursday, September 6, 2012 | return to: news & features, local


Kidney transplant recipient designs software that saves lives

by patricia corrigan, j. correspondent

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A kidney transplant that saved him from the disease that killed his father and brother inspired David S. Jacobs to use his technology skills to save the lives of other people awaiting transplants.

Jacobs, a sales, marketing and business development executive in the technology industry, has spent the past seven years developing a software program that matches people needing kidneys with donors.

 “I didn’t expect or imagine this is what I would do, but now this work drives me,” said Jacobs, 56. “Pikuach nefesh, the gift of life, is the most important of Jewish mitzvahs. Originally, I was driven by the notion that I would be totally satisfied if I could save two people’s lives. I’ve had to move the decimal point twice, and now I’m going for 200.”

David Jacobs
David Jacobs
Jacobs started working on the software in 2004, after he underwent a kidney transplant. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2001 while working as vice president of business development for Macromedia. Jacobs’ sister also has suffered from the genetic disorder, and his father and brother died from it. In 2006, Jacobs started Silverstone Solutions, where he developed Silverstone Matchmaker, a digital cloud-based program.

Jacobs grew up in Chicago and moved to the Bay Area in the mid-1970s. He is married to Amy Shelton, a molecular biologist at Genentech. The family, affiliated with Congregation Sher-ith Israel, includes the couple’s three sons (Dylan, 9, Cassidy, 12, and Marley, 15) and Jacobs’ brother’s son, Meyer, 20.

Before his transplant, Jacobs spent more than three years on a waiting list for a kidney. He was on dialysis for 18 months. He recalls spending a lot of time reading about transplants and imm-unology, thinking about how to increase patients’ options. Within a month after receiving his new kidney, Jacobs started working on his software, which highlights kidney-paired donation matches.

“When a potential donor offers a kidney to an individual, there is a 30 percent chance that the kidney will not be a compatible match,” Jacobs said. “For a long time, 30 percent of potential donors were sent away, but with kidney-paired donation, you can match one incompatible donor/recipient pair to another pair in the same situation.”

California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has used Jacobs’ software since 2007, arranging 44 of the hospital’s 65 multidonor kidney transplants. “David’s software has changed everything we do,” said Dr. Steven Katznelson, medical director of CPMC’s kidney transplant program. “Now, if someone brings in an incompatible donor, that donor can go into the pool.”

Katznelson noted that other, bigger programs in the country have similar software, “though none is as high-tech as David’s,” he said. “His has that Silicon Valley panache.” The hospital pays Jacobs to review and provide support for the program, which Jacobs is still perfecting, but patients and donors pay nothing.

“When I first set out to build the software, I thought, naively, that it was a simple problem,” Jacobs said. “Half a decade later, I am still working on it. But the real heroes are those people who want to donate their kidneys to people in need, because people are dying every day.”

Patients who undergo kidney transplants must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives to keep their bodies from rejecting the donated organ. One potential side effect from those life-saving drugs is a form of lymphoma. Jacobs got it. “In the last year, I have survived cancer,” he said. “Everything is in remission now and I am doing great. I am even back to mountain biking.”

Rabbi Larry Raphael, senior rabbi at Sherith Israel, has known Jacobs for three years. “In the process of getting to know the family, I learned David’s story, and that story is inspirational,” Raphael said. “Some congregants know his story because he spoke about it two years ago at his son’s bar mitzvah, but others may not know. David is not the type to go around sounding off about what he does.”

Jacobs said that in the next few weeks, some “large groups of hospitals” plan to adopt his software. “Still, this is just one pinpoint, because the need for kidneys is a global problem. I would like to take this to Israel, and to other parts of the world,” he added. “I hope over time I can expand it out — and then be obsoleted.”


Posted by Deborah Kohn
09/07/2012  at  10:23 AM
You are an inspiration, David.

You are an inspiration, David. Dir tzu lange yorn.

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Posted by JoannE D
09/12/2012  at  08:13 AM
Mrs Dempsey

My husband is in need of a kidney transplant asap.  He is a double heart transplant and doing well.  Our original donor, after taking all tests and approved, a month prior to surgery declined.  Devastating news. We are open to any and all suggestions.  We have full insurance coverage for donor as well.

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Posted by IrvineDeb
09/13/2012  at  12:39 PM
Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for this brilliant concept.  My husband is on a kidney transplant list and has been on dialysis for 18 months.  Since his blood type is O neg. it is more difficult to find a match.  Is this program available at Scripps Green in San Diego? So far the matching process has not been successful.  Hopefully, positive thoughts will speed the process along.  Wishing you good health and success in this endeavor.

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Posted by jonesby
09/15/2012  at  10:30 PM
Hello everybody, I am new

Hello everybody, I am new to this scene and trying to learn the ropes(as in the do’s and don’t's!)

My friend against better judgment and advice has decided that he would like to NOT DONATE a kidney, but sell it enstead.  As i know that this is illegal in the U. S. and we have been unsuccessful in deterring him does anyone have any ideas on how to deal with this?

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Posted by simplycara
09/17/2012  at  09:42 AM
Fantastic concept


Thank you so much for your passion in this area!  I am the non-designated donor that allowed 8 people to receive a kidney in Northwestern Hospital’s largest kidney pairing.

It’s been two years since my donation and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  My spare time now is mentoring and speaking with others who would like the chance to speak with someone who has donated before.

I also spend my time with several non-profit groups that promote better standards and aftercare for living kidney donors.  As you know there are down sides such as not being able to obtain health insurance as kidney donation is considered a pre existing condition.  This makes no sense at all since 1 in 750 people are born with one kidney and don’t even know it!

This was something that I wanted to do for years.  I am a huge advocate of being an organ donor but I wanted someone to benefit now…now later.  A transplant from a living donor is the best possible scenario for a recipient.

I am convinced that the only way to reduce the waiting list for a kidney is for more people to look into becoming living donors.  The frustrating part is how many people who are in need of a kidney have not been fully educated on their options.  Many think that if their spouse, family member or friend are not a match…that’s the end of it.  But it’s not!  That is where kidney pairings come in.  Right now over 90,000 people are on the national waiting list for a kidney meaning anywhere from a five year wait on up!  Then there is the challenge is they have been on dialysis too long, their body becomes so sensitized that they won’t be eligible for a transplant.

I know and respect that donating a kidney is not everyone’s passion.  But I am a firm a believer that it’s the only way we’ll reduce the waiting list for the recipients.

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