The concept of insulin monitoring contact lenses was created in Google's innovation hub known as the X lab

Google and Novartis to develop diabetic contact lenses

Google has partnered with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to further develop a concept of insulin-monitoring contact lenses first introduced by the US tech giant in January.

The lenses, embedded with tiny sensors and microchips, can measure and read the level of glucose in tears and send the information to smartphones, giving diabetic patients a better control over their condition.

"Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin. “We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true."

The partnership will see Novartis' eye care division, Alcon, which develops contact lenses, working with Google towards commercialisation of the technology. However, as Novartis said in a statement, no fixed deadline has been set for the project as substantial development is needed on both sides. 

Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said: "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. This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye."

In a statement, the Swiss company said their focus would be on two areas of the technology, to help diabetic patients manage their condition, but also to correct a common age-related sight problem.

"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," said a Novartis spokesman.

The announcement is the latest in a string of futuristic projects that Google has undertaken over the last year. The company has launched Google Glass, its wearable headset that has its own range of apps that work within the wearer's field of vision, and has also begun trialling driverless cars on the streets close to Google headquarters in California.

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