Novartis, Google Develop 'Smart' Lens; Hope to Commercialize in Five Years

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Novartis AG and Google Inc. have joined forces to develop “smart” contact lenses that will monitor blood-sugar levels and correct vision in...

Novartis AG and Google Inc. have joined forces to develop “smart” contact lenses that will monitor blood-sugar levels and correct vision in a new way, the latest in a series of moves that are focused on billions of dollars of potential revenue across the digital healthcare market.

The Swiss drugmaker licensed technology from Google, and while Novartis expects the development to take several years, the company hopes to have a product ready for market within the next five years.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight because it’s a breakthrough technology. It’s not months, we’re probably talking about years,” Joe Jimenez, chief executive of Novartis, told Reuters in an interview. “We would hope to be able to commercialize within about five years.”

The two companies will create a contact lens that contains a low power microchip and an almost invisible, hair-thin electronic circuit.

The device for diabetics would measure glucose in tear fluid and send the data wirelessly to a mobile device, according to Novartis. The technology is potentially life-changing for many diabetics, who prick their fingers as many as 10 times daily to check their body’s production of the sugar.

The second approach is to restore the eye’s ability to focus – a loss that occurs in presbyopia, in which aging eyes have trouble focusing on close objects. Such technology would help individuals when reading or looking at nearby objects.

Under the deal with Google, Novartis’ Alcon eyecare unit will further develop and commercialize the lens technologies designed by Google[x], a development team that is devoted to finding new solutions to global problems. Financial details of the partnership were not provided.

The agreement represents an important step for Novartis, across all of its divisions, to leverage technology to manage human diseases and conditions. Google’s key advances in miniaturization of electronics complement Novartis’ pharmaceuticals and medical device expertise.

“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 of Google. “We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”


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