Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Novartis to help commercialize Google smart lens tech

Iain Morris
July 16, 2014
Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis says it has signed an agreement with Google to license the internet giant’s “smart lens” technology for medical use.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Novartis (Basel, Switzerland) believes the Google (Mountain View, CA, USA) technology will give its Alcon eye-care division a major advantage over rivals.

The deal is still subject to the approval of relevant antitrust agencies.

In a statement, Novartis indicated that it saw Google’s expertise in the miniaturization of electronics as complementary to its own capabilities in pharmaceuticals and the medical devices industry.

“We are looking forward to working with Google to bring together their advanced technology and our extensive knowledge of biology to meet unmet medical needs,” said Joseph Jimenez, the chief executive of Novartis. “This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin added that miniaturization of electronics could help improve the quality of life for “millions of people”.

The two companies are to work on developing a more sophisticated smart lens with the potential to address ocular conditions.

Smart lens technology involves using non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics that are embedded within contact lenses.

Novartis says the technology could be used to help diabetics patients manage their disease and also to restore some vision to people suffering from presbyopia and no longer able to read without glasses.

Smart lenses could be used to measure glucose levels in diabetics in a minimally invasive way, with the lens measuring tear fluid in the eye and relaying data about this to a mobile device.

For presbyopia sufferers, the lenses could provide what Novartis calls “accommodative vision correction”.

Using an intraocular lens as part of refractive cataract treatment, caregivers could help restore the eye’s natural autofocus on near objects, says Novartis.

“Alcon and Google have a deep and common passion for innovation,” said Jeff George, the division head of Alcon. “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.”

As noted in a report from Reuters, Google is in fierce competition with Apple (Cupertino, CA, USA) and Samsung (Seoul, South Korea) for partners that could help adapt its wearable technology into healthcare aids.
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