Google X and Novartis, the giant Swiss pharmaceutical are joining forces to develop contact lenses that are able to monitor glucose levels in diabetic patients, and also autofocus the eyes of users who are not able to read without glasses.
The financial details of this deal are still not available to the public as Novartis said they are subject to antitrust approvals.
This agreement will give Novartis the opportunity to expand Google’s original prototype vision for the lenses. They have glitter-sized microchips embedded in them, plus wireless glucose sensors and an antenna that is few micrometers thin.
The prototype was designed by Google to track blood glucose levels found in tears of diabetes sufferers using tiny components found between two layers of soft contact lens material.
The data collected by these tiny electronic components can be transmitted to mobile devices in real-time, allowing patients and doctors to track them quickly and easily.
Statistics from the International Diabetes Federation show that up to 382 million people in the world are suffering from diabetes. To many of these people, these contact lenses could provide them with a painless alternative to pricking there fingers many times a day to determine their blood glucose levels.
Novartis will stick with the original design of the contact lenses but it is also exploring options of including applications that can help people who are diagnosed with presbyopia, which is an age-related condition that makes one to be unable to focus near object or when reading.
Novartis hopes to correct their vision either with auto-focusing lenses that sit inside their eyes or on top of them.
Norvatis CEO Joseph Jimenez said the first prototype smart lenses could arrive early 2015. He added that they could start monetizing and marketing the lenses in around five years. But they will be marketed only after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
Google employees have recently met with FDA officials who are responsible for the regulation of medical devices related to eye health.
“The promise here is the holy grail of vision care, to be able to replicate the natural functioning of the eye,” Jimenez said. “Think about a contact lens that could help the eye autofocus on that newspaper and then when you look up it would autofocus in the distance.”
Either company did not say anything on whether or not the contact lenses will have LED lights that could alert the wearers when their sugar levels have gone below or above certain specific levels, though Google had said it was considering the possibility of having the LED lights when it laid out the initial concept of the contact lenses.
Te warning is very necessary since the wearers might not be close to their mobile devices where the signals could be relayed. Some of the users may not even own those devices, especially those who will be coming from remote areas.
The public is also concerned and they hope the lenses will not be used to snap photos at the blink of an eye as this may invade people’s privacy.
All we need to do now is to wait and see what Google and Norvatis have for us come next year.