Google Develops Smart Contact Lens to Help Manage Diabetes

Google Smart Contact Lens

Google is partnering with pharmaceutical giant Novartis to develop a smart contact lens to help manage diabetes.

In a deal announced Tuesday, the Alcon eye care unit of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis will license the smart lens technology from the Google[x] research division. Under the agreement, Novartis and Google will team up to develop an actual smart lens to address certain medical problems.

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

“Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people,” said Sergey Brin, Co-Founder, Google. “We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”

Google[x] and Alcon will team up to develop a “smart lens” that will address ocular conditions. The smart lens technology involves non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics which are embedded within contact lenses. Novartis’ interest in this technology is currently focused in two areas:

– Helping diabetic patients manage their disease by providing a continuous, minimally invasive measurement of the body’s glucose levels via a “smart contact lens” which is designed to measure tear fluid in the eye and connects wirelessly with a mobile device;

“We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material,” project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz said in a blog post in January when the technology was announced. “We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second.”

– For people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses, the “smart lens” has the potential to provide accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus on near objects in the form of an accommodative contact lens or intraocular lens as part of the refractive cataract treatment.

Novartis expects to get the first prototypes by early next year and may start marketing the products in about five years, Novartis Chief Executive Officer Joe Jimenez said in a phone interview with Bloomberg.

“Alcon and Google have a deep and common passion for innovation,” Alcon division head Jeff George said in a statement. “By combining Alcon’s leadership in eye care and expertise in contact lenses and intraocular lenses with Google’s innovative ‘smart lens’ technology and groundbreaking speed in research, we aim to unlock a new frontier to jointly address the unmet medical needs of millions of eye care patients around the world.”

The Google[x] facility operates in Mountain View, California. One of its most high profile projects has been the self driving car. It is also working closely on speech recognition, balloon powered internet access for rural areas, wind power, and technology for the Internet of Things – in which internet connected home, personal and city objects communicate with each other and take automatic action when different events take place.

Google Working on Smart Contact Lenses

The company’s Google X unit, the one that came up with Google Glass and a driverless car, is working on a contact lens that can check glucose levels in diabetics.

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