How Google and Novartis are shaping health tech

By maria collazo

Novartis and Google have been working on smart contact lenses since last year, but news from both projects broke this week.

According to our sister publication Healthcare Global, Novartis announced that the company was planning on beginning the first of human tests in 2016 and a patent application shed light on how Google might power its glucose-sensing contact lens.

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Novartis to start human trials

Novartis is planning the first human tests next year of a "smart" contact lens it is developing with Google designed to help restore the eye's natural autofocus.

According to a report, Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez told Swiss newspaper Le Temps “it would take about five years to see a product on the market.” The project, however, was “progressing well.” The Novartis smart lens is for accommodative vision correction in people with presbyopia, or age-related long sightedness, who can no longer read without glasses.

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“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,” Novartis said in a statement last year.

Google files patent

A recent patent application shed light on how the smart lens Novartis and Google are working on will be powered—an external device will power the sensor and it could be handheld or embedded in a companion wearable.

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“An external reader device or ‘reader’ can radiate radio frequency radiation to power the sensor,” the patent application says. “The reader may thereby control the operation of the sensing platform by controlling the supply of power to the sensing platform. In some examples, the reader can operate to intermittently interrogate the sensing platform to provide a reading by radiating sufficient radiation to power the sensing platform to obtain a measurement and communicate the result. The reader can also store the sensor results communicated by the sensing platform. In this way, the reader can acquire a series of analyte concentration measurements over time without continuously powering the sensing platform.”

"It's really hard for people to manage their blood sugar," said Jacquelyn Miller, a Google Life Sciences spokeswoman, in an interview with KQED. "We're hoping to take some of the guesswork out of it."

The contact lens is one of the biggest projects under Google’s Life Sciences group, which recently graduated Google X to become an independent subsidiary of Alphabet. Its new name under Alphabet has not been announced, but the company has taken a number of steps recently to put diabetes in the forefront of its work, including partnerships with Dexcom and Sanofi.

[SOURCE: ReutersMobiHealth News]

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