PolyNovo – Changing lives.

It’s often said that need is the mother of invention and it couldn’t be truer for NovoSorb BTM (Biodegradable Temporizing Matrix), the lead product of Melbourne based biotech, PolyNovo. 

Following the 2002 Bali terrorist bombings, many survivors were airlifted to Australia for treatment, often with horrific burns. It was in these circumstances that a need arose for synthetic dermal substitute. Enter NovoSorb BTM* 

Early work

The origins of NovoSorb family of polyurethanes, of which BTM is one, dates back to early work by Dr Thilak Gunatillake and his colleagues at the Australian government owned CSIRO in the early 1990’s. 


NovoSorb is a biodegradable polymer which was developed with a broad range of biomedical applications in mind, particularly in treating vascular diseases, healing bone fractures and damaged cartilage, tissue engineering, wound care and drug delivery. 

New company

Eying the product’s enormous potential, 2004 saw the CSIRO create a spin-off company, PolyNovo Biomaterials Pty Ltd, to further develop and commercialize NovoSorb. 

Leveraging the early work by Dr Gunatillake, a collaboration between PolyNovo’s Dr Tim Moore and the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s Prof John Greenwood led to the development of NovoSorb BTM as a dermal matrix used to treat burns victims 

New ideas

Previous burns treatments often involved using the dermis of an animal, such as a cow or pig, and transplanting that onto patients. This method sometimes failed to take to the patient’s remaining skin or became infected, a problem rarely seen in NovoSorb BTM. 


NovoSorb BTM is a fully synthetic, multi-layered, foam-like product and when attached to a patient it acts as a scaffold which allows nerves and blood vessels to grow through it. A sealing layer on top protects the wound bed below and allows a skin graft to be applied at a later date.  After 12-18 months the product is absorbed and excreted by the body. 

Fast forward to 2021, NovoSorb BTM has met regulatory requirements and is currently being commercially rolled out globally, challenges of the ongoing pandemic notwithstanding. 

Market size

Current estimates of the addressable market for NovoSorb BTM is around $1.5 billion with the current maket leader, Integra Lifesciences. 

Integra make around $600M/year from their animal-based products but PolyNovo, with their superior product, are rapidly growing market share.   Even though NovoSorb is priced at a 30-50% discount to the Integra product, gross margins remain at a solid 90% 

In other news

The original NovoSorb polymer is the driving technology behind PolyNovo’s next generation of medical devices currently in development. These first of these devices will address unmet needs in hernia repair and breast reconstruction. 

As of now, PolyNovo is nearing completion of its new plant dedicated to their hernia repair product, NovoSorb Syntrel.  


Manufactuing machinery is mostly in place with commissioning/validation activities currently underway. The company is aiming to have Syntrel available for first surgical use around Christmas 2021. 

Promising research utilizing the NovoSorb platform is ongoing. Targets include diabetes and tendon/miniscus repair. These potential new products are years  away from commercialization  but still point to a company on the move.


Homegrown success stories are relatively rare in the Australian biotech scene but PolyNovo is fast becoming just that. 



*Interestingly, at around the same time a second Australian developed burns treatment from Avita Medical (Which I’ll review at a later date) began to gain traction in the local market. It’s product, RECELL, acts as a spray-on skin and could be seen as a competitor to NovoSorb BTM.  


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