Ellis D Avner, MD

Professor, the Medical College of Wisconsin

Office locations

8915 W. Connell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(877) 607-5280


Ellis D. Avner, MD, was appointed Founding Director of the Children's Research Institute and Associate Dean for Pediatric Research in 2004. He currently serves as Professor of Pediatrics and Physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Avner received his AB in Religion from Princeton University and his MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of medicine. He served his internship and residency at the Children's Hospital in Boston, where he also completed his fellowship in pediatric nephrology.

Dr. Avner's faculty career began in 1980 at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He moved to Seattle in 1988 where he was a Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Division Chief of Pediatric Nephrology at Children's Hospital and Medical Center. Dr. Avner was appointed Chairman of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University and Chief Medical Officer at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in 1995; posts he held until his move to the Children's Research Institute and the Medical College of Wisconsin. He has held leadership positions in numerous professional organizations including the Society of Pediatric Research, the International Pediatric Nephrology Association, the American Society of Transplantation, and the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation. He serves as past president of the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology and the Council of American Kidney Societies, and served as an elected member of the Standing and Executive Committees of the International Pediatric Association. Dr. Avner has received numerous national and international awards. In 2008, Dr. Avner was awarded the Henry L. Barnett Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognition of his outstanding teaching and research contributions to the field of Pediatric Nephrology.

Dr. Avner has served on the editorial boards of >15 key journals in the areas of nephrology and developmental biology. He is the senior editor of the standard textbook, Pediatric Nephrology, 6th edition, 2009.(7th edition pending;2015) He is the author of more than 265 original articles and chapters in the area of renal developmental biology, polycystic kidney disease and pediatric nephrology. Dr. Avner has served multiple roles in NIH-based peer review, including a regular appointment to the General Medicine B Study Section, which he chaired from 1993-1995. He also has chaired nine other ad-hoc NIH review groups which have focused on genetic kidney disease. Dr. Avner currently directs one of only two federally- funded Research Centers of Excellence in Pediatric Nephrology in the United States, and the only Center that focuses on PKD in children. The National Institutes of Health, private foundations and industry have continuously funded Dr. Avner's research program for the last 30 years. He has generated over $40 million of extramural research funding during that period.

Dr. Avner’s research focuses on key mediators in the pathophysiology of polycystic kidney disease, and most recently his lab has identified unique signaling pathways triggered by mutations in the genes which, when mutated, cause autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), and autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD). He participated in the multi-institutional effort which led to the identification of the ARPKD gene (pkhd1) in 2004. Since that time, his laboratory has published seminal work describing key intermediates immediately downstream from primary gene mutations which cause cyst formation and progressive enlargement with kidney failure in ADPKD and ARPKD. Current pre-clinical work has genetically and pharmacologically targeted these intermediates in vitro and in vivo. This work is now being translated into new, disease-specific therapies for human polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD and ARPKD) in children.

Dr. Avner’s research is complemented by a unique Multidisciplinary Childhood Polycystic Kidney Disease Clinic, the only of its kind in the nation, which he developed in 2005 at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Through his research and clinical programs, Dr. Avner has trained over 28 pre- and post-doctoral fellows, many of whom now lead Children’s Nephrology Programs in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Pediatric Nephrology, Pediatrics - General
Areas of interest
  • Nephrology
  • Congenital kidney problems
  • Polycystic kidney disease

Education and awards

  • 1975, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), MD
  • 1978, Boston Children's Hospital - Pediatrics
  • 1980, Boston Children's Hospital - Ped Nephrology
  • 1970 Magna cum Laude, Princeton University
  • 1970 Woodrow Wilson National Scholar
  • 1970 Potts Award in Biblical Scholarship, Princeton University
  • 1974 Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • 1975 Spencer Morris Prize in Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
  • 1982-1985 Basil O'Connor Research Award, March of Dimes National Birth Defects Foundation
  • 1984-1987 New Investigator Research Award, National Institutes of Health
  • 1986 Award of Tenure, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • 1986-1992 Councilor, International Pediatric Nephrology Association
  • 1988-1991 Councilor, Society for Pediatric Research
  • 1990 Award of Tenure, University of Washington School of Medicine
  • 1994 Kidney Research Aid Fund Award, Institute of Child Health, London, England
  • 1994 Best Doctors in America, Woodward/White, Inc.
  • 1995 Mitchell Rubin Award in Pediatric Nephrology, Children’s Hospital of Buffalo
  • 1995 Award of Tenure, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
  • 1995-1997 Councilor, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology
  • 1996 David Cornfeld Award in Pediatric Nephrology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • 1997- Foreign Member, Kazakhstan Academy of Medical Sciences
  • 1997-2000 Secretary/Treasurer, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology
  • 1997 Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science “For outstanding contributions to unraveling the mechanisms of human polycystic kidney disease”
  • 1997 Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer, Wayne State University School of Medicine
  • 1997-2000 Assistant Secretary, International Pediatric Nephrology Association
  • 2000-2002 President-Elect, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology
  • 2001 The Jean Pouliot Award and Lectureship in Pediatric Research, Montreal, Canada
  • 2001 Distinguished Service Award in Health Care Education, Royal National Lao University, Lao PDR
  • 2001- America’s Top Doctors, Castle Connolly Medical Ltd.
  • 2001-2007 Standing Committee, International Pediatric Association
  • 2001- Councilor, International Pediatric Nephrology Association
  • 2001-2003 Million Dollar Professor, Case Western Reserve University
  • 2002 March of Dimes Distinguished Lecturer, New York Academy of Medicine
  • 2002 Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Award for Research Achievement
  • 2002-2004 President, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology
  • 2002-2004 Rainbow Babies Corporation, Chair for Excellence in Pediatrics
  • 2003-2004 President, Council of American Kidney Societies
  • 2003-2004 Honored Member, Lifetime Achievement Award, Strathmore’s Who’s Who
  • 2003 Howard Mermelstein Memorial Lecture, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • 2004 Award of Tenure, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • 2004-2007 Executive Committee, International Pediatric Association
  • 2008 Henry L. Barnett Award for Excellence in Clinical Care and Education in Pediatric Nephrology, American Academy of Pediatrics
  • 2008 Invited IPNA Plenary Lecture, ESPN Annual Meeting, Lyon, France
  • 2010 MCW’s Outstanding Medical Student Teacher (Physiology)
  • 2012 Named: “America’s Top Pediatricians”, Consumers Research Council of America
  • 2012 Named: “ Leading Nephrologists in WI”, (IAHCP)
  • 2013 Named: “Leading Physicians in the World” (IAHCP)

Research and publications

  • Pathophysiology of childhood polycystic kidney diseases: new insights into disease-specific therapy.
  • Sirtuin 1 inhibition delays cyst formation in autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease.
  • New approaches to the autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease patient with dual kidney-liver complications.
  • Role of genetic modifiers in an orthologous rat model of ARPKD.
  • Diagnosis and management of childhood polycystic kidney disease.