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Allaying post-surgical pain: How developing medical “gamechangers” gives these scientists meaning


Tue, 11/14/2023 - 12:00


For many, working in a lab, day in and day out can be pedantic. But for the R&D team at this Biotech startup, they’re motivated by an ambitious goal and a hunger to go beyond just what their roles demand.  

Daniel Seet’s career seemed laid out for him even before he completed his Chemical Engineering degree. Like most graduates of the four-year course at the National University of Singapore (NUS), he expected to land a job in the oil and gas industry.   

But in his third year, a module on drug delivery changed everything. “It was only after I took (the class) that I saw how research and development (R&D) could lead to the invention of new drug products that benefit millions every year,” he said. “I really wanted to be at the ground level of something new, something exciting.”  

He ended up doing a research stint with his professor, who had been collaborating with a Singapore biotech startup. Daniel was hired as a full-time research engineer after he graduated in 2016. Two years later, the startup was acquired and became fully integrated as Allay Therapeutics.  

Today, Daniel leads the startup’s Research & Development team in their Singapore office – a small team of independent and motivated individuals working to develop a pipeline of drug products. 

Daniel with his team at the office pantry. 

“In a startup, I feel that I can very easily see my contributions in a very tangible way across different departments,” said Daniel. “I thrive in an environment where I get to see how my actions and how the hard work that I do on a day-to-day basis contributes to the bigger picture.”

Healing more safely

Allay Therapeutics’ mission is to help people find safer ways of managing pain after surgery. Headquartered in California, it creates “ultra-sustained” local anaesthetic products, where the pain reliever is released over a longer period. 

Typically, opioids are given to post-surgery patients to manage pain. However, these substances come with a high risk of dependence and globally, opioid addiction has destroyed families, shattered communities and is now considered an epidemic.

Allay aims to provide a better way of alleviating pain. It integrates non-opioid local anaesthetics together with their innovative controlled-release platform to achieve a slower and more extended release of pain medication. The sustained release means that patients do not have to return to hospital so often for new medication. It also speeds up recovery, with patients being able to go for rehabilitative therapy sooner.

Watch: What It’s Like Working In A Biotech Startup 

“I wanted to be on the ground and build something exciting and new,” said Daniel, who started as a formulation engineer working on creating new drug products, and is now senior manager of R&D. Allay has labs in various countries, with its Singapore lab responsible for developing its drug product pipeline and improving the new technology till it is ready for clinical trials.

One product Daniel is particularly proud of is an implant called ATX101, which provides sustained pain management for people who have undergone total knee replacement surgery. The Singapore team worked on the drug product in its early stages before transferring it to its sister team in the US to bring it to clinical trials.