Novartis signs deal with Google to bring smart lens tech to market

Alcon, the contact lens subsidiary of Novartis, will license the technology and co-develop the lenses with Google for a variety of ocular medical uses.


Healthcare giant Novartis, parent company of the contact lens manufacturer Alcon, will join forces with Google to bring its smart lens technology to market.

Through the partnership announced Tuesday, Alcon will license the technology and co-develop the lenses with Google for a variety of ocular medical uses.

A product of Google Research and Google X, the smart lens technology turns regular contact lenses into mini computers. According to Novartis, the partnership perfectly pairs the strengths of the two companies, as it marries Google's expertise in miniaturized electronics, low power chip design and microfabrication with Alcon's expertise in physiology, clinical development and evaluation.

When Google announced the smart lens tech back in January, the use cases were focused largely around diabetes maintenance. At that point Google explained how the lens hosted a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material that could detect glucose levels in tears. 

It seems as though Novartis will carry on with the focus on diabetes patients, but it also plans to use the technology to help those living with presbyopia, which is the condition where people can no longer read without glasses. Novartis said the smart lens has the potential to provide vision correction and restore the eye's natural autofocus on near objects.

"Alcon and Google have a deep and common passion for innovation," Jeff George, division head of Alcon, said in prepared remarks. "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."

Exact terms of the partnership have not been released, and it's also unclear when the first Google-powered Alcon smart contact lenses will hit the market.