Novartis, Google tie-up to license “smart lens“ technology

Drug maker Novartis in a tie-up with Google announced that its eye care division Alcon would licence the search giant's much-anticipated ''smart lens'' technology for all ocular medical uses, in a move that would enhance Alcon's pipeline and global leadership in contact lenses and intraocular lenses. The transaction remains subject to anti-trust approvals.

Novartis, Google tie-up to license ''smart lens'' technologyNovartis said yesterday it had signed the deal with Google's secretive research unit Google X Lab, which has developed Google's Smart Contact Lense.

Alcon, Novartis's eye-care subsidiary, would develop and commercialise Google's ''smart lens'' technology, which was revealed earlier this year (See: Google files patent for contact lenses with tiny cameras).

The agreement between Google and Alcon is an important step for Novartis, across all of its divisions, to leverage technology to manage human diseases and conditions. Google's key advances in the miniaturization of electronics complement Novartis's deep pharmaceuticals and medical device expertise.

Novartis said it aims to enhance the ways in which diseases are mapped within the body and ultimately prevented.

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

Sergey Brin, co-founder, Google said, "Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people. We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true."

The two companies hope to be able to commercialise the production of these lenses in about five years.

Novartis said it would acquire a licence to develop and sell products based on Google's prototype.

Novartis' interest in this technology is currently focused in two areas - eye diseases in diabetics and those with presbyopia.

It said helping diabetic patients manage their disease by providing a continuous, minimally invasive measurement of the body's glucose levels via a "smart contact lens" which is designed to measure tear fluid in the eye and connects wirelessly with a mobile device;

For people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses, the "smart lens" has the potential to provide accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye's natural autofocus on near objects in the form of an accommodative contact lens or intraocular lens as part of the refractive cataract treatment.

The agreement marries Google's expertise in miniaturized electronics, low power chip design and microfabrication with Alcon's expertise in physiology and visual performance of the eye, clinical development and evaluation, as well as commercialization of contact and intraocular lenses. Through the collaboration, Alcon seeks to accelerate product innovation based on Google's "smart lens" technology.

Earlier this year Google unveiled having taken its wearable tech initiative a step further with a contact lens that packs sensors and an antenna to help people with diabetes. According to Google the contact lens relieves diabetics from the occasional pain in the finger they have to live with to keep a tab on their glucose levels., (Google develops glucose monitoring contacts).

According to Novartis, smart lenses could potentially be used also to restore the ability to focus in ageing eyes.

The Google prototype comes with an electronic sensor and a microchip for data transmission to mobile phones.