Novartis teams up with Google to make smart contact lens a reality

Novartis, the Swiss healthcare firm, has announced it will license Google’s exciting smart contact lens technology, initial unveiled by the Google X team at the beginning of this year. This is the first step in making the revolutionary lenses a reality, and potentially helping millions worldwide understand and manage certain medical conditions more effectively.

Under the new agreement, Google will bring its experience in miniaturized electronics, microfabrication, and low power chips to the table. It’s Novartis’ eye care division Alcon that will provide the medical expertise, from understanding how the eye works, to developing and then successfully marketing a cutting-edge healthcare product.

When Google first talked about the smart lens, it specifically mentioned how it would help anyone with type 1 or 2 diabetes. Instead of taking a blood sample, the smart lens would monitor glucose levels using tear fluid from the eye, then transmit the data to a smartphone or other device. Amazingly, the lens is powered by a static electrical charge, meaning it doesn’t need a battery.

In addition to helping those with diabetes, Alcon also wants to develop lenses to combat presbyopia, a condition which stops the eye from focusing on close-up objects. The smart lens could help bring back this ability to quickly focus, and negate the need for corrective surgery, bifocal glasses or special soft contact lenses.

The collaboration is exciting, but the chance to buy a set of Alcon/Google smart lenses is still a way off. There’s no mention of when either company expects to have a commercial product ready for release, only that the partnership will “accelerate product innovation based on Google’s smart lens technology.”