The National Kidney Foundation’s first Spring Clinical Meetings in an entirely virtual format got underway today.

NKF switched to the live virtual format after canceling its planned meeting in New Orleans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s felt like we have been planning for a whole other conference but in just two weeks,” said Jessica Joseph, MBA, NKF’s Senior Vice President for Scientific Operations.

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Transitioning to a virtual meeting required NKF conference organizers to make sure speakers were still available “which has been a little bit of a struggle because, obviously, this pandemic is impacting all of our healthcare professionals,” Joseph said. “We have had some speakers cancel, but we’ve just been rolling with it.”

The conference will now take place using the Zoom webinar platform. Many sessions will be interactive, and attendees will be able to ask questions of panelists via a chatbox. NKF also will conduct audience response polls. To participate in the conference, attendees can either download the Spring Clinical Meetings mobile app, or they can access the program via the NKF website (

Joseph noted that the number of registrants for the virtual conference is higher than that of the New Orleans meeting. “We’ve actually seen an uptick in registration. “Before we announced that we were going virtual, we were at about 2500 registrants, but we’re at about 2700 right now, and people are still registering.”

NKF meeting organizers decided to switch to a virtual conference rather than cancel the Spring Clinical Meetings entirely because they felt that they owed it to the nephrology community to continue to provide continuing education, Joseph said. “Even during this pandemic, healthcare professionals are still taking care of everyday kidney patients, and we need to make sure that they have the best practices and knowledge to do so.”

She added, “We’ve had so much support from attendees and from speakers who are just so excited that we’re not completely canceling the meeting or postponing it.”

NKF will keep the on-demand recordings of sessions on its website through April 29, and reach out to speakers in the coming months to seek their approval to transition their talks into true online enduring programs, Joseph said.

“During this unprecedented time, it’s really important that our attendees have the opportunity to participate in sessions long after the live conference,” she said. “So hopefully we can keep them up for an additional year.”

In addition to live sessions, the virtual conference features 478 study abstracts, many of which detail the findings of important new discoveries. Highlights include 2 late-breaking abstracts, one of which presents findings from the AURORA phase 3 clinical trial showing that patients with active lupus nephritis experience improved renal outcomes with voclosporin. The other abstract reports findings from a randomized study of the effect of veverimer on serum bicarbonate and physical function in patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease.