Google targets commercial connected contact lenses with Novartis licence

Google brought the concept of a connected contact lens a step closer to reality by securing a key distribution channel in the form of Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Google's smart contact lens prototype

Google smart contact lens prototype

The company's Alcon eye care division agreed to license what it dubbed 'smart lens' technology from Google for use in contact and intraocular lenses. The collaboration aims to ally Google's skills in miniaturising electronics, low power chip design, and fabrication with Alcon's expertise on the physiology and visual performance of eyes, clinical development and evaluation, and, crucially, commercialising the resulting lenses.

Novartis boosted its share of the global vision care sector to at least 70 per cent in 2010 when it acquired Alcon, Forbes reported, and took a leading position in the global consumer health market in April 2014 through a joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline, according to Euromonitor International.

Joseph Jimenez, Novartis' CEO, said the Google licensing deal is "a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye."

Google's researchers and Alcon will initially have two goals: developing a contact lens that monitors diabetics' glucose levels using tear fluid and then sending the information wirelessly to a mobile device; and producing a contact or intraocular lens with camera-style auto-focus capabilities for people with presbyopia--difficulty focusing on close objects--who are having difficulty reading.

Jeff George, division head of Alcon, said the combination of his company's expertise in eye care with "with Google's innovative 'smart lens' technology and groundbreaking speed in research," will enable the companies to "unlock a new frontier to jointly address the unmet medical needs of millions of eye care patients around the world."

Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, said the company hopes to "use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people."

The American Diabetes Association revealed that around one in every 19 people globally suffer from diabetes, the Wall Street Journal reported, while Reuters noted sufferers of the disease may prick their finger up to ten times a day to test their glucose levels.

For more:
- see Novartis' Google announcement
- see this Forbes article
- read Euromonitor International's blog
- see this Wall Street Journal report
- see this Reuters article

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