Published On: Tue, Jul 15th, 2014

Perfect Eyesight with Google / Novartis Futuristic Contact Lens


The truly ambitious and promising part of the Google Lense is a cure for the ravages of presbyopia, where aging eyes can no longer focus.

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Swiss drugmaker Novartis is joining forces with Google to develop “smart” contact lenses to help diabetics track their blood glucose levels, as well as restore focus.

Under the deal, Novartis’s Alcon eyecare unit will develop and commercialize the lens technologies designed by Google[x], the American company’s development team. Non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics will be embedded into the contact lenses.

Financial details were not disclosed.

According to Novartis, the new device will measure glucose in tear fluid and send the data to a mobile device. Diabetics today must prick their fingers several times a day to check their body’s sugar levels, so not having to do it would improve countless lives.

The device will allow Novartis to dominate the global blood-sugar tracking market, which GlobalData expects to pass $12 billion by 2017.

It is estimated that 382 million people suffer from diabetes today.

Patients with Type 1 as well as Type 2 diabetes monitor their blood glucose level to reduce the risk of the disease, which, if goes unchecked, can result in blindness and amputation.

The director of health intelligence at the charity Diabetes UK, Simon O’Neill, told Reuters he would “welcome any investment in new technology that might one day have the potential to make this easier for people or to offer them more choice.” He cautioned, though, that “we have no idea how likely it is to develop into something that is routinely available or how long this might take to happen.”

Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez said he hoped that a product could be on the market in about five years.

But that’s not all: the truly ambitious, and promising part of the Google Lense is a cure for the ravages of presbyopia, a condition where, with age, the eye exhibits a progressively diminished ability to focus on near objects. Novartis says the new lens technology will also help to restore the eye’s ability to focus, suggesting it will work much like the autofocus in a camera.

Cameras were those big things you took pictures with before you could point your phone at them and click.

“This really brings high-technology and combines it with biology – and that’s a very exciting combination for us, ” Jimenez told Reuters.

“I think you’re going to see more and more areas of unmet medical need where companies like Novartis are going to take a non-traditional approach to addressing those needs.”

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