July 16, 2014
Novartis Inks Deal To Manufacture Google Contact Lens For Diabetics
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineGoogle Shows Off 'Smart' Contact Lens For Diabetics ]
The device, which was developed by Google researchers Brian Otis and Babak Parvis and originally announced by the company in January 2014, consists of a wireless chip and miniaturized sensor embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material and would essentially provide 24-7 monitoring of glucose levels.
It measures the amount of sugar in the tears of the person wearing it, then communicates that information to a smartphone or tablet computer, which would then alert the patient when he or she needed to eat or his or her glucose levels needed to be lowered. Earlier this year, Google unveiled a prototype capable of testing tears once per second, and were investigating the use of LED lights that could serve as an alternate early-warning system.
According to Reuters, the device “is potentially life-changing” for diabetics, some of whom are required to test their blood sugar levels using finger-prick devices up to 10 times each day. In addition, Novartis believes that the “smart lens” could also be used to help people with presbyopia, an age-related condition that robs the eye’s ability to focus naturally.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but under the deal, the Swiss pharmaceutical company’s Alcon eyecare division will develop and market the contact lenses, Caroline Copley of the news agency said. Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez told Reuters that he believes the lens could be commercially available in approximately five years.
“These are issues that have been unmet medical needs for quite some time,” the CEO went on to tell USA Today reporter Karen Weintraub, adding that he hopes that the two companies will work together on other health-related technologies in the future. “It was very clear that there could be a very nice synergistic value between bringing high tech together with biology to solve some of the biggest health care issues that we're facing.”
Weintraub explained that the work is currently still in its preliminary stages, and that trials involving patients will not even begin until next year. Jimenez said that the cost of the “smart lens” has not been determined at this time, and while he would not disclose how much each of the two companies would be contributing to the project, he said the investment would be “commensurate with the business opportunity.”
The demand for the device will likely be high, according to BBC News. The fact that the “smart lens” is non-invasive, combined with International Diabetes Federation reports that as many as 10 percent of the global population will have the disease by the year 2035, will likely mean that there will be a lot of people looking for non-invasive ways to monitor blood glucose levels. In addition, the unit’s ability to restore the eye’s autofocus ability could eliminate the need for reading glasses in older men and women.
In April, Google also unveiled another potential use for the technology behind both the smart lens and Google Glass – a separate contact lens project that would feature miniature cameras. Those cameras could be used to photograph what the wearer is currently looking at, as well as provide a contact-based assistive device for the visually impaired.
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