Partnership between Google and Novartis to create 'smart' contact lenses

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'Smart' contact lenses that are capable of monitoring glucose levels in Diabetes sufferers, and potentially restoring the natural autofocus in people who wear glasses, could soon become a reality thanks to a partnership between Google and Novartis. Under the new agreement, Novartis will commercialise Google’s ‘smart lens’ technology, which consists of sensors, microchips and other microelectronics, in a bid to transform eye care and improve the quality of life for millions of people.

The agreement between Google[x], a group within Google devoted to finding new solutions to big global problems, and Alcon, the eye care division of Novartis, will take benefit from Google’s expertise in the miniaturisation of electronics, low power chip design and microfabrication, as well as Novartis’ knowledge of the physiology and visual performance of the eye, and its extensive dealings with the pharmaceutical and medical markets.

‘This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye,’ said Joseph Jimenez, Novartis CEO.  

‘By combining Alcon’s leadership in eye care and expertise in contact lenses and intraocular lenses with Google’s innovative “smart lens” technology and groundbreaking speed in research, we aim to unlock a new frontier to jointly address the unmet medical needs of millions of eye care patients around the world,’ Jeff George, division head of Alcon, commented.

The smart lens technology consists of non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturised electronics, which will be embedded within contact lenses to create a ‘smart lens’. The technology has the potential to help diabetic patients manage their disease by providing a continuous, minimally invasive measurement of the body’s glucose levels via a ‘smart contact lens’ designed to measure tear fluid in the eye. Also, the technology could benefit people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses, by providing accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus on near objects.

‘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.’

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