For more than a decade, Alonzo Mourning was one of the most intense and ferocious frontmen in the National Basketball Association.

Now, instead of posting up on opponents like Allan Houston, Mourning has a new opponent in mind: APOL1-mediated kidney disease (AMKD).

Teaming with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Mourning is heading the recently announced Power Forward campaign to raise awareness of AMKD, stressing the importance of early diagnosis and genetic testing. 

For Mourning, the educational initiative is a personal endeavor given his past issues related to kidney health. In the midst of his prime basketball playing years, Mourning was diagnosed with AMKD, a rare kidney disease that is caused by mutations in the APOL1 gene and can lead to kidney failure. 

Ultimately, Mourning received a kidney transplant and was able to continue his career and win a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. Now, he wants to focus his efforts on raising the profile of the condition and encouraging more proactive kidney care among historically marginalized patient populations. 

According to the American Kidney Fund, people who have Western and Central African ancestry are more likely to have kidney disease associated with the APOL1 gene.

“I was on top of the basketball world when I first noticed symptoms of kidney disease, and the truth is if it weren’t for my pre-season physical, I probably would have continued to ignore them,” Mourning said in a statement. “Many people living with AMKD might not even know that they have this disease and may not be aware that it’s an inherited form of kidney disease, which is why we all need to be active participants in our health. 

As part of the Power Forward campaign, Vertex has launched a website and brand pages across multiple social media platforms.

Additionally, people who may be at risk for AMKD will have access to a toolkit of educational materials and actionable content. Among these items are a discussion guide for setting up doctors’ appointments and information about getting tested for AMKD.

This is the latest kidney care play for Vertex, which saw its drug Inaxaplin receive breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA for APOL1-mediated focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and orphan drug designation by the European Medicines Agency for AMKD.

“Our teams are working tirelessly to advance a potential treatment for AMKD. At the same time, we recognize the immense need for greater disease awareness, education, and genetic testing resources within the kidney health community,” Vertex CMO and EVP of global medicines development and medical affairs, Carmen Bozic, M.D. said in a statement. “We hope this partnership will empower others to be proactive about kidney health, and we’re excited to team up with Alonzo to work toward this goal.”