Volume 92 Issue 29 | p. 7 | News of The Week
Issue Date: July 21, 2014 | Web Date: July 18, 2014

Novartis Licenses Google ‘Smart Lens’ Technology

Drug company and electronics firm see applications in eye, diabetes treatment
Department: Business
News Channels: Biological SCENE, Materials SCENE
Keywords: pharmaceuticals, diabetes, electronics
A prototype smart lens.
Credit: Novartis
A hand holds a contact lens.
A prototype smart lens.
Credit: Novartis

In another move by a drug company into the realm of electronics-enabled health care, Novartis’s Alcon eye care division has agreed to license “smart lens” technology from Google.

Developed by Google X, a Google “secret lab” focused on solving big global problems, the technology is a way to embed contact lenses with noninvasive sensors, microchips, and other electronics.

Novartis envisions two applications for the technology. One is helping diabetic patients manage their disease by measuring glucose levels in eye fluid using a smart lens connected wirelessly to a mobile phone. At present, people with diabetes must draw blood and place it in a glucose measuring device.

The other application is treating presbyopia, the loss of the eye’s ability to focus on close objects that occurs naturally with aging. When combined with refractive surgery, the smart lens has the potential to help restore the eye’s natural ­autofocus, according to the drugmaker.

Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez calls the agreement with Google “a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management.”

Novartis is one of several big drugmakers that are starting to work at the interface of electronics and traditional pharmaceuticals. GlaxoSmithKline, for example, is funding research into tiny devices that modulate electrical signals in the body (C&EN, June 30, page 15). And Novartis is an investor in Proteus HealthCare, which is developing drugs embedded with sensors that can relay information about the body’s response to them.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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