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An implant that treats patient pain following knee surgery for up to three weeks — as opposed to a couple of days like conventional devices — relies on biodegradable polymers from Evonik to extend the drug-delivery window.

December 13, 2022

2 Min Read
graphic of human knee
Image courtesy of Evonik/Allay Therapeutics

Materials company Evonik reports that it has invested in Allay Therapeutics, a US/Singapore-based startup that has developed an implant for treating pain after knee surgery for up to three weeks. Conventional devices work for a maximum of three days, according to Evonik, which adds that its biodegradable polymers have helped to enable this advance.

Knee replacements are among the most frequently performed surgeries worldwide. The patient may experience post-surgical pain for several weeks, however, hindering recovery. As a result, doctors typically prescribe painkillers such as opioids, which have numerous side effects, including a high risk of dependence. Allay's devices “may provide patients with pain relief exactly when they need it most — for weeks instead of days,” said Adam Gridley, Allay Therapeutics CEO. “This would significantly improve and accelerate the recovery process.”

The treatment of severe postoperative pain is estimated to be a $10 billion market, according to Evonik.

Allay Therapeutics' knee implant

The thin, coin-size knee implants comprise a local anesthetic and biodegradable polymer from Evonik.

Evonik said that it sees great potential in this technology, which is in early stages of clinical development. "Allay's pain products can become a game-changer in post-operative pain management. They may reduce the problems that opioids bring, such as dependence, further hospitalization, lengthy rehabilitation, and costs to the healthcare system," says Bernhard Mohr, head of Evonik Venture Capital.

The thin implants are about the size of a coin. They are placed around the implanted knee joint following surgery and consist of a proven local non-opioid anesthetic and polymers from Evonik. The local anesthetic blocks transmission of pain signals to the spinal cord, thus stopping the pain impulse before it reaches the brain. These types of systems typically function for a few days. Allay has succeeded in extending drug delivery to up to three weeks through a novel active ingredient-polymer architecture. Evonik's polymers play a key role by ensuring that the active ingredient is delivered in a controlled fashion over a long period. During this process, the implants gradually dissolve and are broken down by the body. The technology can be easily adapted for other orthopedic and soft tissue surgeries, said Evonik, and Allay is currently developing a portfolio of products based on this drug-polymer architecture.

The biodegradable polymer used in the Allay implant was developed by Evonik's Health Care Business Line. 

Allay Therapeutics was founded in 2016 and is headquartered in San Jose, CA, with research and development facilities in Singapore, where the technology was created.

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