Post the release of its first-ever digital eyewear Google Glass in 2013, Google parent Alphabet teased that it was working on a smart contact lens which will be highly useful for medical purposes, especially diabetes. The company had previously decided on a late 2016 date to finally begin its first-ever human trials but its primary partner Novartis has adondoned the said goal, reports Fortune.
Novartis, which has partnered with Alphabet’s research group Verily Life Sciences, has stated that the work on the autofocus contact lens is ‘progressing steadily’ but they won’t be able to begin clinical human trials this year. Speaking about the delay, a spokeswoman from Novartis states,
It is too early to say when exactly human clinical trials for these lenses will begin. This is a very technically complex process and both sides are learning as we go along. We will provide updates at the appropriate time.
Advancing innovation such as the smart lens technology, is a key part of Alcon’s growth strategy. The ‘smart lens’ technology has the potential to transform eye care and further enhance our pipeline … in the contact lens and intraocular lens space.
Last year, Joe Jimenez, the chief executive of the Basel-based drug company has claimed that their company’s progrees on the development of the eyewear was on track. He had then also said that it will begin testing in 2016. But the research teams at these two behemoths seem to run into unexpected issues which have led to the delay of the much-awaited trials.
Two years ago, Novartis and Google inked a partnership to research and develop two kinds of contact lenses. One would be an auto-focusing lens for people with far-sightedness and another, for measuring the blood glucose level of diabetic patients using their tears. The autofocus lens would be miracle for those patients whose eyes have aged and lost the ability to focus. Whereas Google, in its blog post in early 2014, has detailed the glucose lens saying,
We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material.
It had then also detailed its ambition for this project which would enable the people suffering from the said symptoms would be intimated of the rise and fall in sugar level via integrated LED lights within the contact lens. It would collect the reading once a second and give an early warning to the use of their levels are tanking or rising. This would also enable diabetic patients of the aweful finger pricking, blood oozing kit that they have to carry around.
An unexpected delay in a project of this magnitude isn’t a surprising development at all. Both the involved companies are focused on getting the smart contact lens ready for the masses in the coming years. This is considered as one of the key long-term bets for the future of health and technology. The clinical human trials of the project has, however, been terminated indefinitely. We’ll update you once we receive more info on this ambitious project.