Google’s smart contact lens project is getting a boost from a new deal with Novartis (NYSE:NVS). Google’s research division, Google[x], will provide the technology behind the smart contact lens to Novartis’s Alcon eye-care division, which will license the technology. The partnership will also have the two companies working together to refine the technology so that they can eventually progress to the testing phase. Once it survives that phase and gets the needed approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, then it will eventually make it to the market.
In some ways the deal is the ideal match of technology and medical knowledge. Google specializes in devices and the small sensors that make the smart contact lenses possible. Novartis brings its medical and treatment knowledge to the table. The Wall Street Journal reported that analysts like the deal from a business perspective since Alcon is a leader in the contact lens market.
Google described how its smart contact lenses would work in a January blog post. Currently, how the lenses will work is through the use of sensors between two layers of contact material. The sensor will detect blood glucose levels, an important indicator of health for diabetics. The lenses may be modified as a result of this partnership to improve them or to use them to monitor other conditions.
Novartis division Alcon also wants to apply the technology to treating the condition presbyopia, an eye condition that causes people to lose the ability to focus. It is currently treated with glasses. The company sees the potential to use Google’s smart contact lens technology for a wide variety of diseases and conditions.
“Alcon and Google have a deep and common passion for innovation,” said Jeff George, division head of Alcon, in a press release announcing the partnership. “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.”
Google’s smart contact lenses are only one example of Google’s recent forays into medical and health technology. The technology firm has also recently announced Google Fit, its own fitness tracking software. Google seems to be growing increasingly interested in health data and technology — the catch is that Google is not alone in this venture.
Rival Apple’s much-rumored iWatch is expected to be part health tracker. The company has also revealed HealthKit, a similar software. Fitness trackers by Fitbit and Nike’s FuelBand are also popular. It seems, then, that the future of health and medicine is going to be high tech if this Google-Novartis deal is an example of what is to come.