Novartis, Dexcom and Google Life Sciences Devices

Contact Lens Case - Flickr

Life science collaborations continue to evolve and so does Google. According to Reuters, Novartis plans the first human tests of a smart contact lens next year. Novartis is developing this lens with Google to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus. More specifically, the lens is intended for people with age-related farsightedness, who can no longer read without glasses.

In an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Novartis chief executive Joe Jimenez shared, “This project is progressing well. I had said it would take about five years to see a product on the market.” He continued, “The calendar is on track and we are already developing a technological lens prototype (that) should be tested on humans in 2016.” In addition to addressing farsightedness, Novartis is working with Google to create smart contact lenses to help diabetics track their blood glucose levels.

Take a further look into the blood glucose monitoring arena, and you will find Dexcom is teaming up with Google to develop bandage-thin continuous glucose monitoring devices. “If you look at kids with diabetes and the size of the components, it’s pretty big and takes up a lot of real estate,” says Kevin Sayer, president and chief executive officer of Dexcom. The goal of the partnership is to combine Google’s advancements in miniaturized electronics to create a small, flexible and disposable device that could be thrown away weekly when the sensor needs to be changed. “Inside that [glucose monitor] transmitter, there’s a battery, there’s a radio, a processor, an antenna,” says Sayer. “Google has spent a lot of time miniaturizing electronics.” Today, one of Dexcom’s sensors alone costs about $70 to $75 and lasts a week. With the Google partnership, the costs are expected to decrease in a substantial way.

Incidentally, the Google we are talking about in this case is one of the new companies that Google created under its restructured and newly named company, Alphabet. This life sciences company under Alphabet goes by the fitting name of Google Life Sciences. Google Life Sciences seems to be focusing a lot on blood glucose monitoring. In a communication to Endocrineweb.com, a Google Life Sciences spokesperson shared, that the collaboration with Dexcom “is an example of how the life sciences team at Google is continuing exploring ways that making sensors and electronics small and convenient for everyday life could help people manage disease.”

While blood glucose monitoring is a current focus, Google Life Sciences appears to be targeting a range of illnesses down the road, because National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director Dr. Tom Insel said he will step down in November and join Google Life Sciences. Insel, who has been with NIMH for 13 years, said he would work on Google Life Sciences projects that explore mental illnesses. For more information on Insel’s transition, see NIMH.

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Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: Contact Lens Case, Flickr)

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