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Novartis forms alliance with Google on ‘smart lens’

Published on 15/07/14 at 10:40am
Lens image
Google’s tie-up with Novartis highlights the increasing interest in both industries about the potential of technology reshaping healthcare

Novartis eye care division Alcon has struck a deal with Google to develop a ‘smart’ contact lens designed to help diabetics track their blood sugar levels. 

Through the collaboration Alcon will work with Google’s so-called ‘X division’ in order to accelerate the ‘smart lens’ technology, but no terms of the deal have been disclosed. 

Sergey Brin the co-founder of Google says: “Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people. We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”

The smart contact lens offering is built to measure glucose levels in tears. It uses a small wireless chip and miniaturised glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. 

They hope that this contact lens will allow the wireless device inside
 to catch and analyse tears automatically, making it easier for people to 
track their glucose levels. 

Along with the potential for helping sufferers of diabetes, Novartis is banking on the the lens helping people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses, as it has the potential to provide accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus – in order to aid cataract treatment. 

Novartis says the agreement marries Google’s expertise in miniaturised electronics, low power chip design and microfabrication – with Alcon’s expertise in physiology and visual performance of the eye, clinical development and evaluation, as well as commercialisation of contact and intraocular lenses. 

Google’s tie-up with Novartis does again highlight the increasing interest in both industries about the potential of technology reshaping healthcare, with pharma keen to see what it can use from the many offerings that are surfacing from the expanding digital realm for its own purposes.

This partnership also links into the increasing trend of wearable tech devices and represents a renewed focus from the technology and entertainment industry towards healthcare.

Also outlining its future plans, Novartis chief executive Joseph Jimenez says: “We are looking forward to working with Google to bring together their advanced technology and our extensive knowledge of biology to meet unmet medical needs.” 

“This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye.”

Brett Wells

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