PEEK is used as an alternative to titanium in spinal implants because it has a similar structure of bones and it can be easily seen on X-rays because of its radio transparency. It is also inert which allows it to not cause any bad reactions with human tissue. Naturally, PEEK doesn’t promote bone growth, so DiFusion compounded negatively charged zeolites into Solvay’s Zeniva PEEK polymer.
“It was sort of a penicillin moment,” Derrick Johns, CEO of DiFusion Technologies, said. “We started out engineering anti-microbial polymers by first loading zeolite particles with silver before compounding them. But we discovered if we took the silver cations out of the zeolite, they imbued PEEK with a negative charge. Osteoblast cells are attracted to the negatively charged surface at a far higher rate than titanium, and yet we were able to preserve the polymer’s outstanding visualization, modulus and strength benefits.”
DiFusion chose to use Zeniva ZA-500 PEEK because of its higher flow that allows the compounding process to happen and the extrusion of osteoconductive implants.
“In addition to our materials expertise, Solvay’s open innovation business model was instrumental to the successful innovation of DiFusion’s ZFUZE osteoconductive composite,” Jeff Hrivnak, global business manager for healthcare at Solvay’s Specialty Polymers Business Unit, said. “Our uniquely collaborative approach to customer projects differentiates us from other PEEK suppliers in this industry, and it allowed us to pool our respective capabilities and resources with DiFusion to solve this demanding challenge.”
The ZFUZE composite technology is expected to be commercially available in the U.S. by early 2018 as it is in its final stages of the FDA 510(k) approval process.