Novartis has licensed Google’s new ‘smart lens’ technology in a deal that will see its eye health unit Alcon work with the technology company develop new types of contact lenses.
The technology combines non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturised electronics which are so small they resemble bits of glitter embedded within contact lenses.
Google revealed earlier this year it was testing smart contact lens that can measure diabetes patients’ glucose levels via their tears and connect wirelessly with a mobile device to store this information.
Applying the minimally invasive technology within the diabetes arena to reduce the burden of regular blood glucose tests is one of the key areas of interest for Novartis in its new deal with Google.
The other is to help people with presbyopia – age-related long-sightedness that makes it more difficult to focus on objects that are near.
Novartis hopes people with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses could benefit from a smart lens, either in the form of an accommodative contact lens or an intraocular lens, to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus as part of refractive cataract treatment.
Beyond these two areas other applications may yet be forthcoming and Novartis has licensed ‘all ocular medical uses’ of Google smart lens technology.
Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said: “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.”
For Jimenez’s company the deal between Alcon and the Google[x] team – which is tasked with finding new solutions to major global problems – fits into Novartis’ plans to “evolve technology to manage human diseases and conditions”, where its initiatives include a recently tie-up with quantified self firm TicTrac.
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, said: “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 agreement, which remains subject to anti-trust approvals, would also allow Google to avoid having to deal with some of the “painful regulation” Brin sees in the health tech space.