The smart lens project was developed by Google’s clandestine "X" research team and aims to revolutionize the way that diabetics measure and monitor their blood glucose levels.
The companies didn’t reveal any terms of the deal but Alcon, the eye care division of Novartis (NYSE:NVS), has in-licenses to develop and commercialize the technology. The deal is subject to regulatory approval, Alcon noted, adding that it’s a "first step for Novartis to evolve technology to manage human diseases and conditions."
The smart lenses are fitted with wireless microchips, tiny glucose sensors and hair-thin antennae that can detect blood glucose levels in tears and transmit that data to another device. Google said earlier this year that the prototypes were generating 1 reading per second, and researchers were considering adding a tiny LED warning system that would light up to alert the wearer that blood glucose levels are nearing unhealthy highs or lows.
"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," Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said in prepared remarks. "This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye."
Google’s X team unveiled the smart lenses in January, saying at the time that it was looking for partners to take the project from the bench to the market. The company built the lens from scratch, developing new chips and sensors and transmitters small enough to sit on the eye.
The lenses were the brainchild of Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, who had been collaborators at the University of Washington before working with Google X. Otis had previously published papers on contact lenses with sensors that can measure blood glucose and other biomarkers, raising speculation of such a project when his name appeared on the FDA’s public schedule alongside other Google insiders.