Novartis Joins With Google to Develop Contact Lens to Monitor Blood Sugar
LONDON — Google announced on Tuesday a partnership with the European drug maker Novartis to develop a smart contact lens with the potential to monitor the wearer’s blood sugar levels.
The agreement is among recent moves into the health care sector by technology giants including Apple and Samsung as they develop devices and mobile applications to track people’s daily lives.
Novartis said that Alcon, its eye care unit, had struck a deal to license so-called smart lens technology from one of Google’s research divisions. Financial terms were not disclosed.
As part of the agreement, Alcon said it would look to create products from Google’s prototype smart contact lens, which uses miniature sensors and a radio antenna thinner than a human hair to track glucose levels. The companies did not specify how the data would be transmitted.
Information about blood sugar levels, which is particularly useful for people with diabetes, could be uploaded to smartphone devices and used by doctors and patients to monitor the data almost in real-time, according to a statement from Google issued when the company released its prototype in January.
It is unclear how long it will take Novartis to develop the technology into actual products, though the company’s chief executive, Joseph Jimenez, said the agreement was part of the drugmaker’s efforts to incorporate technology into new ways of tackling diseases.
“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,” Mr. Jimenez said in a statement.
Sergey Brin, a Google founder, said the company’s smart lens technology could “help improve the quality of life for millions of people.”
The push to develop medical technology comes as several of the world’s largest technology companies are looking for new areas for growth. Analysts say that the pharmaceutical and health care sectors are crucial targets as people increasingly take greater control of their own medical treatment.
This year, Apple introduced health-tracking tools that track users’ footsteps, heart rates and sleep activities. Samsung already offers a number of so-called wearable devices that also allow people to monitor their daily movements.