Google, Norvartis Partner on Medical Applications of Smart Contact Lenses

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Google, Norvartis Partner on Medical Applications of Smart Contact Lenses
Google has entered into an agreement with the eye care division of Novartis to manufacture its 'smart lens' for ocular medical uses.

Google X, a team within Google devoted to find new solutions, in an agreement with Novartis unit Alcon, is aiming to help people with diabetes and presbyopia. Google had first unveiled its prototype smart contact lens in January, which was aimed at helping diabetics track glucose levels.

"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."

According to Novartis, the smart lens technology "involves non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics" that will be embedded within contact lenses. While the team with Google will develop the chips as it advances in the miniaturization of electronics, Alcon will develop and commercialize Google's smart lens technology.

Novartis says that with its pharmaceuticals and medical device expertise the company is currently focusing on its two interests in this technology - helping diabetic patients manage their disease and for people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses.

With smart contact lenses designed to measure tear fluid in the eye and connects wirelessly with a mobile device, Novartis says it aims to provide a continuous and minimally invasive measurement of the body's glucose levels for diabetics, who would otherwise prick their fingers up to 10 times a day to check.

Success would allow Novartis to compete in a global blood-sugar tracking market that is expected to be worth over $12 billion by 2017, according to research firm GlobalData. Diabetes afflicts an estimated 382 million people worldwide.

Other than that, the company also sees the potential to help patients with presbyobia, to "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."

"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."

The alliance comes as drugmakers explore ways for technology to reshape healthcare, helping patients monitor their own health and lowering the costs of managing chronic diseases.

Jimenez said he hoped a product could be on the market in about five years' time. Although the licensing deal is just for the eye, Jimenez said Novartis was also thinking about how technology could be applied in other areas, such as remote patient monitoring in heart failure.

Written with inputs from Reuters
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